MLA for Kootenay East Tom Shypitka. File photo

MLA for Kootenay East Tom Shypitka. File photo

B.C.-Alberta healthcare access issues continue across Kootenays

MLA investigates rumours patient transportation services stop at the border

An eight-month-old girl with epilepsy is one of the latest victims in a healthcare deadlock between B.C. and Alberta.

Over the holidays, MLA for Kootenay East Tom Shypitka and his staff continued to receive requests for assistance from patients referred to Kelowna or Vancouver instead of Calgary.

A child needing treatment for epilepsy, a woman pregnant with twins and told she must travel 12 hours to Vancouver to see a specialist, and a man refused a CAT scan unless he could prove his need and coverage, were among local cases successfully rerouted to Calgary.

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Shypitka praised his staff who he said are “constantly” on the phone.

“We’re having some pretty good luck with it but we can’t keep doing this, we’ve got to get a good policy in place,” he said.

Prior to Christmas, Shypitka met with local health professionals as well as Interior Health at Elk Valley Hospital in Fernie to gain a better understanding of the referrals process. About 18 people attended the December 19 meeting, which is expected to be the first of many.

Shypitka was told referrals to Calgary appeared to be received well by Alberta practitioners.

“But then when it got to the administrative level or transportation level, it seemed to be bogged down and they were getting referrals turned away,” he said.

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The MLA is now investigating whether there’s any truth in rumours that transportation services in both B.C. and Alberta will only transfer patients within their respective provinces.

“We’re going to be communicating more with the Minister of Health here in B.C., also with the Alberta health services,” said Shyptika.

“We’re also going to be making some queries into BC Ambulance Service, RAAPID service, which is the transportation service in Alberta, and also STARS.”

Shypitka said he is encouraged by the response from Regional District of East Kootenay board directors, and local mayors. He believes there could be a case for federal intervention.

“We should all be able to enjoy a seamless transition across boundaries and jurisdictions within Canada, to get the access and the healthcare that we deserve,” he said.