Hundreds of health-care workers, politicians, business leaders and Surrey residents rallied at Surrey’s Civic Plaza Saturday (Sept. 9) to voice their concerns about the state of health care in the region.
“We’re here, because collectively, we’re fed up with the neglect this region has experienced for decades,” said Emergency Room physician and director of Surrey Hospitals Foundation Dr. Randeep Gill. “The chronic systemic under-funding and under-investment has put us back so far, and that neglect has real life consequences.
“For decades annually, we receive hundreds of millions of dollars less than Vancouver, yet our population has grown exponentially and our people are sicker.”
Gill said the region has the highest incidents of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure due to high blood pressure, diabetes, and genetics.
“Yet we do not have those life-saving treatments south of the Fraser,” he said.
Saturday’s rally, “Healthcare Now: Bridging the Equality Gap South of the Fraser,” is happening now. It is organized by BC Health Care Matters (BCHCM). It will go from 2- 5 p.m. on Saturday (Sept 9) at Surrey’s Civic Plaza (3450 104 Ave.) next to City Hall. pic.twitter.com/YnlBvc8uFA— Anna Burns (@AnnaBBurns) September 9, 2023
Health care access in Surrey is a topic that is deeply personal for South Surrey resident Amy Rai, who was at the rally with members of her family, including her son, Aiden.
“We have been failed by the health-care system a number of times,” said Rai.
“We’ve had family members who have passed away that didn’t need to at Surrey Memorial Hospital.”
Rai’s son Aiden is on a three-year waiting list to get an assessment for his needs. Rai told the Now-Leader that the only available centre is in Vancouver.
“Now I’m forced to go private to get him help because I’m not waiting three years to get him the support he needs.”
Rai called the situation “infuriating.”
“We work hard to contribute to our system and the system, and time and time again, it fails us,” she added.
Saturday’s rally came the day after Health Minister Adrian Dix gave a status report on the “30 promised health care actions” he announced three months earlier.
Surrey South MLA Elenore Sturko, who was in attendance at the rally, said she does not think it was a coincidence that Dix held a press conference the day before the rally.
“The reality is that there has not been a lot of progress on the conditions here at Surrey Memorial Hospital,” said Sturko.
“Our health-care workers are still under significant stress as a result of a lack of resources, and overcrowded conditions.”
Peggy Holton said she has seen this firsthand. Holton has been a registered nurse for 42 years, 17 of those at Surrey Memorial Hospital. She is the council chair for South Fraser Valley Region for BC Nurses Union.
“I’ve seen a lot, but the way we are right now, if we don’t fix it, people will suffer,” said Holton.
“People will die. Nurses will leave. Our health-care system is not sustainable the way it is now.”
Surrey’s mayor Brenda Locke also expressed concern about the lack of funding for health care in Surrey. As the population of Surrey continues to grow, health care has not kept up, she said.
“It’s time that all levels of government take action to ensure that the social infrastructure is in place to support our citizens and our future citizens,” said Locke.
Saturday’s rally was Dr Randeep Gill. BC Health Care Matters (BCHCM) collaborated with Gill to help promote the event.
Camille Currie, president of BC Healthcare Matters, said the purpose of the rally was to shine a spotlight on Surrey Memorial Hospital.
“There are too many people that have died because of lack of access to health care, as well as lack of access to the services they need in an acute setting.”