At a time when the health care system is crying out for more money, and the provincial government is desperately short of money, theres one health care centre in B.C. that makes a substantial profit to the benefit of the provincial health care system. Its here in Whistler.
With all the out of province and international visitors who require treatment in the Whistler Health Care Centre, and have to pay for their care, the Whistler Health Care Centre brings in substantially more than it costs to run. That profit is spread throughout the Sea to Sky Health area, enhancing service at the Squamish Hospital and the Pemberton Health Care Centre.
Its not as if this money isnt earned. At times the Whistler Health Care Centre can look like a M*A*S*H unit, except of course there is no surgery performed at the Whistler clinic, but thats another story. The point is, Whistler health care workers work extremely hard, and with the nature of injuries and illnesses that occur in the mountains, at times face tremendous pressures. They have received praise and thank you cards from patients around the world who received first class treatment at the centre.
But staff at the Whistler Health Care Centre are getting second class treatment from the medical bureaucracy. When the provincial government reached a new contract with health care workers earlier this year it included raises for all unionized health care staff, which is the vast majority of health care workers across B.C. Staff at the Whistler Health Care Centre are an exception. They arent unionized, but they have always received the same wages and benefits as unionized health care workers. Until now.
Whistler health care staff are still being paid under terms of the old contract, even though unionized health care workers, including those in Squamish and Pemberton, are getting a higher wage under terms of last summers settlement.
Health officials say Whistler nurses will eventually get their raise and be paid according to the new contract, its just that because they arent part of the union the health ministry hasnt approved their wage increase yet.
Its not the first time Whistler has been left in the lurch because square pegs dont fit into the round holes created by government bureaucracy. Take, for example, any provincial program thats based on a per capita formula.
But ignoring for the moment the blunt instruments of government policy wielded in Victoria, Whistler health care staff should be paid the same as unionized health care workers because its simply the right thing to do.
Unlike most of the other problems facing the provincial government, this one doesnt have a significant impact on finances. It will cost the province a little bit more to pay the handful of Whistler health care workers a fair wage, but in reaching a province-wide agreement with health care workers earlier this summer, it was a cost the government anticipated.
The Campbell government doesnt need any more battles with labour. This is one it can avoid; just pay the nurses what they were promised.