A Central Saanich councillor’s motion to help alleviate the doctor shortage by possibly purchasing housing for physicians to rent was soundly defeated at a council meeting Monday night.
Coun. Gordon Newton’s motion was defeated 5-1, with Newton casting the lone vote in support.
He had suggested the district explore buying housing to rent to health-care workers below market rate as a way to attract more physicians to the region.
“This is purely a federal and provincial jurisdiction and local governments are really restricted on where they can have influence in this, and housing is a pretty strong purview of local governments,” Newton told CHEK News Monday, ahead of the vote.
He said his main concern is the growing lack of access to family physicians for local residents and mounting pressures on the health-care system.
Coun. Niall Paltiel, who opposed the motion, told CHEK News on Tuesday that while the ongoing doctor crisis is a pressing concern, the problem is bigger than the district and needs swift action from the province to fix.
“Nobody on council at all stated that the health-care crisis that we’re facing right now with practitioners and access to health care, nobody is under the assumption or impression that this isn’t a priority,” he said.
But in a time of inflation and various budget constraints, Paltiel said he felt that the motion — which asked district staff to report back on buying housing first, then look into renting it at below-market rates for health-care workers — was too much to ask taxpayers.
“You always appreciate when people bring initiatives to the table,” he said. “As much as it’s significant with the health-care crisis, now more than ever, nationally and globally…I just think that we’re seeing a much more significant focus on working to make sure we’re respecting every tax dollar that we spend.”
Paltiel said instead, council passed a motion brought forward by Coun. Bob Thompson to meet with other municipalities on the Saanich Peninsula to “follow up in a more regional approach and discussion” on how to put pressure on the province to address the family doctor shortage, among other things.
Nearly one-million British Columbians do not have access to a family doctor, according to the B.C. College of Physicians in Surgeons. The 2021 census shows the population of B.C. is just over five-million.
The province also sees some of the longest walk-in clinic wait times in the country, with Victoria experiencing the longest waits in the country at more than two-and-a-half hours.