A growing number of health care patients in communities in the southeast corner of the province are having trouble accessing health care services in Alberta.
Kootenay East MLA Tom Shypitka said his office has been inundated with constituent concerns about access to health care services in Alberta and that the volume has increased over the last year or so.
Shypitka says the province of Alberta has been moving non-emergency and elective surgeries for B.C. patients to Kelowna and elsewhere for roughly the last year, however, those referrals have intensified over the last six months.
“Now, we’re getting this kind of complaint all the time,” Shypitka said.
The Kootenay East MLA says he has been working with provincial health minister Adrian Dix behind the scenes to solve problems on a case-by-case basis.
Shypitka says he is in talks with Dix trying to identify why British Columbians are having trouble getting surgery and other health care services in Alberta, which is potentially linked to financial compensation between the two governments.
“In my opinion, I think it’s a billing issue, where health authorities in Alberta aren’t getting direct payment from the province of British Columbia, from B.C. residents,” he said. “So instead of it going directly to the health authority, these payments go to Alberta as a whole, and then those payments get trickled down or allocated back to the health authority not necessarily always 100 per cent.”
Shypitka urges any local patients running into roadblocks for health care in Alberta to contact his constituency office with their testimonials.
The Cranbrook Townsman has reached out to the B.C. Ministry of Health, however, a response to the issue has yet to be returned.
According to a memo from the Interior Health Authority, Shypitka says Calgary cardiac surgery services has experienced an unprecedented increase in the number of cardiac surgery referrals.
As a result, Interior Health was informed that Calgary will not be able to offer non-immediately threatening open heart procedures to patients from southeastern British Columbia, continued Shypitka.
Alberta Health Services (AHS) says care was provided to 9,440 out-of-province patients last year.
According to a statement from a Alberta government spokesperson, a policy guideline is in the works that will support AHS doctors and clinicians about accepting out-of-province patients seeking elective procedures at Alberta hospitals.
Those guidelines are in early stages of development and will be piloted in specific regions and clinical areas.