North Island-Powell River MP outlines constituents’ health concerns

People are cutting prescriptions in half to stretch out medication, says Rachel Blaney

Making sure Canadians are able to access pharmaceuticals is an important public initiative, according to North Island-Powell River MP Rachel Blaney.

Speaking to area media in a teleconference on Thursday, August 1, Blaney outlined some of the issues that have come to the fore in her discussions with constituents.

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Blaney said that day, she had the opportunity to talk to locals about health concerns. The constituents came with family stories about cystic fibrosis.

“We just talked about the challenges of having lack of access in some cases to pharmacare and what that does for families,” said Blaney.

One of the things Blaney said she is hearing again and again is the need to make sure medication is available for people.

“We have to remember to include their diseases in a pharmacare strategy and make sure that when it comes to health we give people the best care,” she said. “We are hearing from this region that until we start doing pharmacare in a more meaningful way, when medication is actually accessible and people aren’t cutting their medication in half, until we get to that place, we are going to have families in high levels of distress.”

Blaney said one of the things the NDP has proposed is a single-payer public pharmacare model, which really means how do all parties work together to make sure medication is affordable and people can access it.

“I’m hearing stories from seniors, from families, even from doctors talking about prescribing people medication and people are cutting it in half because they want to stretch out the medication, because of cost, or they are not able to afford it, so they can’t buy it,” said Blaney.

“I remember talking to one young doctor who said they were trying everything to find affordable medication for people so if the patient can’t afford one, the doctor tries to find something else that is more generic.”

Blaney said her party is proposing a couple of things. Right now, all the provinces and territories in Canada are purchasing pharmaceuticals individually, so the bargaining power is not as strong as it could be, she said.

“If we all do this together, we can start to bargain more effectively and save some money,” said Blaney. “The parliamentary budget officer, about two years ago, wrote a report saying this is a way that could save billions of dollars, just from the collective purchasing alone.”

The next part is a single payer is needed.

“That means we would be working with businesses, the provinces and the federal government collaboratively to have a way of paying into the system so people can get their medications,” said Blaney. “What’s heartbreaking is when people can’t afford medication and they either get very sick, or unfortunately, die, because they can’t access the medication. We want to make sure this doesn’t happen in this country if possible. That means let’s make a process where it’s more affordable and more accessible for everyone.”

People with private insurance are able to get medication, but if they don’t have private insurance they often can’t afford it, said Blaney.

“The outcomes are often people aren’t going to work because they are ill, or taking care of somebody that is ill, coming in and out of hospital because they can’t afford the medication,” she said. “It’s important that we do a cost analysis to see what it means when people don’t get the medication. Our party is advocating buying collaboratively, and let’s have one single-payer public pharmacare, so that if you need the medication, you get it.”

Not getting medications can be difficult for someone requiring them, both physically and mentally, but also for others such as family members.

“It’s a little bit heartbreaking,” said Blaney.

During her teleconference, Blaney also spoke about having met with striking members of the United Steelworkers, who are on strike against Western Forest Products, and about weather station buoys on the BC coast that are not functioning and not scheduled for repairs for another year due to a lack of availability of coast guard vessels to help do the work.

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