Sparwood mayor David Wilks was in attendance at the street party to discuss potential changes to Centennial Square.

‘We need to break down the boundaries’ for health care in Canada: Sparwood Mayor David Wilks

Wilks said that digital healthcare systems in Canada should be able to speak across provincial borders

A border community mayor is calling for better connectivity and communication across provincial borders when it comes to health records.

Mayor David Wilks of the District of Sparwood has talen on the cause of campaigning for the harmonization of electronic health records across Canada, saying that folks who lives in border communities were vulnerable to different systems across provincial borders.

Wilks, who spent time on the parliamentary health committee during his time as a federal MP between 2011 and 2015, said that the committee often heard of issues with how the process of moving Canada’s health records online was hitting roadblocks.

“The biggest stumbling block that we heard … was that although we had electronic health records in most provinces, what wasn’t happening, was that one province couldn’t talk to another province electronically.

“So if you were a person who lived in Fernie and you were transferred to Foothills hospital in Calgary, your health records could not be transferred electronically to Foothills because B.C. and Alberta have two different servers. As a result of that, it makes it – in my opinion – a redundant system,” he said, adding that amid the COVID-19 pandemic, having a Canada-wide health records system was even more important – something border communities understood now, but needed to be highlighted for provincial leaders to understand. “There are many border communities that struggle with this.”

“I don’t know how we can move this forward other than shining a light on it and pushing it,” he said.

Currently, if you fall ill in a different province to where you live and your records are requested, they often have to be mailed or emailed as different provincial systems don’t ‘speak’ to each other.

“The challenge with that is certain things can’t be transferred like X-rays, MRI results, CT scan results – those can’t be easily transferred by just an email – you have to mail them, and we all know how slow that can be.”

Wilks said that there were issues with how the move to adopting digital health records was happening, with the federally-funded body, Infoway, handing money to provinces to digitalize their records without the proviso that their records system be able to speak to other provinces. Healthcare is a provincial responsibility.

The solution was that federal funding for the digitalization of records should come with a string attached, said Wilks.

“The only string attached (should be) that all ten provinces and three territories need to work toward getting the same service provider – one service provider for all of Canada. It doesn’t seem like a hill all too hard to climb. It seems like something that is attainable. But it’s going to take all ten provinces to sit down with the federal government and the minister of health and their collective ministers for health provincially and say we get it, we all want to achieve the same thing, how can we move forward to have the same provider for everybody.”

It’s early days, but Wilks said he was looking to get support from local doctors first, and then he’d hope to start moving east, doing his homework and gathering support.

“With all due respect to the provinces and whomever is in power at the time, they have to put partisanship aside, they have to put aside the fact that yes, healthcare is a provincial matter placed upon them under the constitution, but the federal government can help them financially by ensuring that we have one provider. That’s all we’re asking. We’re not telling them how to collect their records, what to do with the records, just can we have one service provider so we can talk from coast to coast to coast.

“Health doesn’t have boundaries. If you get sick in Alberta, your body doesn’t know you’re in Alberta, it just knows you’re sick. We need to break down the boundaries.”

READ MORE: Castlegar doctor shares personal COVID story, calls for adherence to guidelines



scott.tibballs@thefreepress.ca
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