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Surrey physician named BC United candidate for Surrey-Cloverdale in 2024 election

Click to play video: 'BC United unveils ‘star candidate’ for battleground Surrey riding'
BC United unveils ‘star candidate’ for battleground Surrey riding
Surrey Memorial Hospital doctor Claudine Storness-Bliss has been announced as the B.C. United's 'star canadidate' for the Surrey-Cloverdale riding. Richard Zussman reports. – Feb 7, 2024

BC United has named a Surrey physician as its candidate for the Surrey-Cloverdale riding in the 2024 provincial election.

In a Wednesday interview, Dr. Claudine Storness-Bliss said she’s tossing her hat in the ring due to frustrations with the health-care system and the current government’s handling of it. The obstetrician and gynecologist named resource shortages at Surrey Memorial Hospital — where she works — as a particular challenge.

While raising her voice there, she said she realized “advocacy and leadership is what really drives” her.

“I think that my experience as a doctor, as a surgeon, as a women’s health physician is important because it does give me the perspective of the population’s view,” Storness-Bliss explained. “I don’t think that you can run health care without really understanding it.

“Doctors used to be in leadership at all levels of medicine, and that slowly went downhill over the last probably 30, 40 years … It’s time we take it back and do what’s right.”

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In May, dozens of doctors and midwives penned letters to health-care officials and the public stating that quality of care in at Surrey Memorial Hospital was in real jeopardy and had already compromised public safety.

One letter from women’s health-care providers stated that the strain on resources had resulted in outcomes that “fall sharply below the standard for a tertiary level maternity care centre in our province,” and even suggested it had contributed to one infant’s death, “countless near misses” and grave “moral injury.”

Another letter from emergency room doctors warned of “unsafe conditions” and a failure to communicate the breadth of the “crisis to patients and the public,” while the former medical director of Surrey Memorial Hospital said the crisis had reached a “boiling point,” marked by a shortage of house doctors and acute care beds.

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He told Global News he wouldn’t send his own family there for care.

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The president of the Surrey Memorial Hospital’s Medical Staff Association also raised concerns about “systemic” and disproportionate underfunding. She noted that Vancouver has four emergency departments to serve 650,000 people in the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) region, but Surrey only has one to serve its 530,000-plus residents.

“She’s a fantastic find for us and she’s doing it for the right reasons, because she’s genuinely concerned about the health-care system,” BC United Leader Kevin Falcon said of Storness-Bliss’ nomination.

“I think having someone with those capabilities that’s prepared to step forward and say, ‘I want to run and I want to try and fix health care,’ is just enormously positive.”

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Focus BC: Provincial election 10 months away, emergence of Conservative Party of BC

Health Minister Adrian Dix said Wednesday he welcomed Stormess-Bliss’ candidacy in the riding. However, he challenged any assertion that the government isn’t doing enough for health care in Surrey.

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“The government’s agenda is remarkably ambitious and has been developed working with health-care professionals and health-care workers in Surrey,” he said at an unrelated press conference.

“For example, in the riding of Surrey-Cloverdale, we’re building a second hospital. As you’ll recall, the previous government — and Mr. Falcon bragged about it in the legislature — not only opposed doing that, but sold the land to try and stop anyone else from doing it as well.”

A new medical school , cancer centre and urgent and primary care centres are also coming for Surrey, Dix added. He further cited “30 actions” the government is taking, or has taken, to remedy the crisis at Surrey Memorial Hospital.

“I think it’s fair to say, under the previous government, Surrey was the most neglected community, or certainly one of the most neglected communities, in all of B.C.”

Click to play video: 'B.C. government offers help to address Surrey Memorial staffing crisis'
B.C. government offers help to address Surrey Memorial staffing crisis

Storness-Bliss described building a new hospital in Surrey as “little decisions that can seem big,” but “true health-care reform is needed.”

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“I think we need to sort of shave the top of the pyramid, if you will. We have way too many administrators in health care right now. We have 70 VPs across health authorities making over a quarter of a million dollars a year … we probably don’t need half of them,” she said.

“I think I could accept spending more money on executives if actually made a difference, but it’s gone from bad to worse.”

She further vouched for a province-wide health authority, rather than regional health authorities, in order to improve efficiency and standards across the system.

Click to play video: 'Surrey Memorial Hospital expansion among measures to relieve emergency room overcrowding'
Surrey Memorial Hospital expansion among measures to relieve emergency room overcrowding

Storness-Bliss acknowledged a “very limited knowledge of the political system,” but touted her “laser focus” on her goals. If elected, she said someone will cover her patient load and she will continue to practice when the legislature is not in session.

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The riding of Surrey-Cloverdale is currently held by NDP MLA Mike Starchuk, who was elected in 2020.

The provincial election is currently slated for October.

 

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