Surrey council has instructed city staff to develop a plan to “streamline and prioritize” tenant improvement applications and business licenses for doctors who are registered with the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons and who are opening or expanding a clinic in Surrey.
Council approved Coun. Harry Bains’ motion on Monday (Sept. 11), council’s first regular meeting after the summer break. He presented it on July 24, hoping it would boost the number of family doctors in Surrey. Bains noted that while the average ratio in B.C. is 112 family doctors per 100,000 residents, in Surrey that’s 59 family doctors for every 100,000.
“We are currently approximately 320 family doctors below where we need to be for a city of our size and we need to expedite our processing of applications so that doctors can be in treating our residents as quickly as possible,” Bains said at the time.
Bains spoke this past Saturday at a health-care rally arranged by doctors at Surrey Memorial Hospital and said he saw Surrey is united in its demand for “equitable” health care south of the Fraser.
“If promises, announcements and press conferences would improve our health care, we would have the best health care in the world right here in Surrey. Unfortunately we don’t.
“We as a city can’t control our medical system as funded or run, that falls under provincial jurisdiction. I still think that we as a city need to do everything we can and I hope that my fellow councillors support my motion so that we can ensure that as a city we are doing everything we can to improve the health care needs of our residents,” Bains said prior to the vote. “By supporting this motion, you will help reduce the amount of time it takes for a family doctor or a doctor who is registered by the BC College of Physicians and Surgeons to open or expand their clinic within our city and I believe that that will be a great benefit to our residents.”
Bains also noted that while in Canada the average number of acute care beds is 2.5 per 1,000 residents, Vancouver has five and Surrey has one. “Even with the proposed hospital, we will still be below 1.5.”
Coun. Rob Stutt said Saturday’s rally was “heart-wrenching, the need that we have in Surrey to do better with health care and to convince the provincial government it can’t be an ask anymore, it’s a requirement.”
Coun. Linda Annis called it a “great motion” and said she’d like to see it expanded to include services like physiotherapy, clinics for blood work and “things like that, because we seem desperately short in everything and whatever we can do as a city to move the process along, in terms of the tenant improvements, I would be fully supportive of.”
Coun. Mandeep Nagra said he “fully” supported the motion.
“I just want to add something to that,” he said. “Just recently we saw a report for opening new cannabis stores and where staff identified a few locations for the city-owned locations for the cannabis stores, so my idea is why don’t we just zone those locations that are owned by the city for maybe 24-hour walk-in clinics and also offer subsidies on rent for the doctors, local doctors that come in and operate out of those locations? So that’s just my thought, maybe we could use the facilities that are owned by the city for walk-in clinics.”
Mayor Brenda Locke replied Nagra’s suggestion is “of interest, but I don’t think that speaks to this.”
Locke later noted that Surrey’s health-care woe has been a systemic problem “for a very, very long time, and we need to do what we can and I think this one is one thing that the city can do.”