Around 100 people packed the Hume Hotel Thursday night for an all-candidates forum focused on health care.
Candidates Michelle Mungall, Sjeng Derkx and Greg Garbula fielded questions prepared by area health care professionals in the first half of the evening and then the audience had their chance during the second hour.
Moderator Marianne Bond said many have not given up on seeking a restoration of lost services in Nelson resulting from restructuring in the health care sector over the past 10 years.
Rural acute care was affected by consolidation and candidates were asked to explain how they would support it.
Green’s Derkx said he would listen to professionals in the industry while his party would find funds for more “feet on the ground” from cutting back on administration — which garnered him applause. Decisions need to be made closer to where services take place, he said, stating that Interior Health is too top heavy.
“We do believe the IHA needs to go,” he said. “The proof is in the pudding.”
NDP Mungall talked of her party’s Rural Acute Care Initiative that would put $45 million back into the provinces suffering system. Funds would come from taxing corporations and would specifically restore ICU beds, surgical services and make CT scans available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
She knows Interior Health isn’t popular.
“This isn’t a business. This is health care,” she said.
But she said “blowing up” what previous governments have instituted isn’t helpful because it destabilizes. Instead, she proposed changing the way the health authority operates.
The Liberals’ Garbula defended his party illustrating cuts weren’t the only agenda of the current government. State of the art facilities like the tertiary referral hospital in Kelowna serves as a hub for the region, he said, adding a dedicated helicopter for rural acute care can also be dispatched from Trail.
“We’ve done a lot of work and built a lot of buildings and developed a lot of initiatives,” he said.
Garbula defended Interior Health claiming accusations of it being heavy on administration and light on actual service does is damaging to people working hard within the organization.
“These are people who work as hard as the rest of us,” he said.
The Liberals plan to review all administration to see if services can be improved, he said.
The forum went from 7 to 9 p.m. and was the last one being held before the May 14 election day.