Fraser Health funding lowest per capita in province

Coun. John Smith and MLA John van Dongen of Abbotsford are concerned about data released by the auditor-general.

Abbotsford Regional Hospital and Cancer Centre is among the facilities in the Fraser Health Authority.

Fraser Health Authority receives the lowest per capita funding of any health authority in the province, according to data released by B.C.’s auditor-general, leaving a local councillor and MLA concerned.

The report, called “Health Funding Explained,” shows that FHA receives only slightly more than half of the per capita funding of Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCHA).

Fraser Health Authority received $1,585 per capita in 2011/12. In comparison, VCHA received $3,008, Vancouver Island Health Authority received $2,554, Northern Health Authority received $2,465 and the Interior Health Authority received $2,372.

Coun. John Smith (photo at left) said the information in the report confirmed his long-held feeling that FHA was receiving less than its share.

According to Smith’s analysis of the data, the FHA is the only health authority to receive a smaller percentage of funding than its percentage of population. He said while FHA receives 28 per cent of the budget for 39 per cent of the population, Vancouver Coastal Health Authority receives 29 per cent of the budget for 22 per cent of the population.

Smith said there are some explanations for discrepancies in funding, such as geographic area and population distribution, but this does not account for such a large gap between authorities.

“This is the fastest growing region by far, and its has been left behind by a funding formula that, I believe, is archaic and is in need of an upgrade.”

John van Dongen (photo below), independent MLA for Abbotsford South, shares Smith’s concerns. He said the report also confirmed his belief that there is funding inequity for FHA.

“Some of this may be explainable, but not the huge gap in these numbers.”

Van Dongen said the authorities receive a similar percentage increase in budget each year, explaining that this method does not reflect the most current statistics or the Fraser Valley’s high growth rate.

“It’s politically more comfortable for governments to just give everyone the same increase,” he said. “But it’s not right to have one authority under significantly more pressure, and I think that’s what the facts are.”

Roy Thorpe-Dorward, spokesperson for FHA, said the allocation of funding is complex and isn’t solely decided on a per capita basis. He said a difference in funding between authorities does not mean the funding is inequitable, but FHA believes the formulas need to be examined to ensure that it is.

“We’re working with the provincial government to look at the formulas used to calculate funding to ensure that they keep up with needs, population and current patterns of use, to ensure that Fraser Health is funded accordingly.”

He said FHA has received greater budget increases than other health authorities, but noted that because FHA also has the greatest growth it will continue to push for additional resources.

“We think we are providing top quality health care services with the resources that we have, but that doesn’t mean that we won’t continue to identify needs and work to improve and increase health care services.”

Smith and Van Dongen both said it is difficult to reallocate the existing resources among authorities, but there must be a fairer way to divide dollars between regions.

Van Dongen noted that even with the discrepancy, FHA works hard within its budget to provide the best health care.

“I think that they’re working hard to be as efficient as possible… health care has been good despite the pressures.”

But he worries the lack of proper funding can cause doctors and health care professionals to leave the Fraser Valley for better opportunities in other authorities.

Smith sits as the director and vice-chair of the Fraser Valley Regional District Hospital Board (FVRDHB), and he hopes to be able to bring the issue to the provincial government through the FVRDHB.

“While we are mandated to provide facilities… we do have a mandate to make sure we get comparable health service compared to Vancouver.”

Van Dongen said he plans on pressing the issue provincially, though there is no easy fix.

“I think it’s something that needs to be inserted into the political conversation,” he said.

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