WHETHER it’s raising the minimum wage, increasing welfare rates or addressing the province’s affordable housing crisis, the BC Nurses’ Union said on Monday that the Budget Update from the new government takes a step in the right direction when it comes to addressing the social determinants of health.

BCNU said it is a strong believer that healthier communities are created when the mental, physical and socioeconomic well-being of citizens is a priority.

“Taking steps like raising welfare and disability rates, as well as minimum wage rates will only mean a healthier BC as a result,” said BCNU Treasurer Sharon Sponton. “We are also happy to hear of the investment in 1,700 more affordable rental units and an additional $291 million for new modular units for the homeless. We know that socioeconomic factors, like poverty, income, housing and social status determine health to a great extent.”

BCNU said it is pleased to hear that the government is dedicating $322 million over three years towards a comprehensive response to the province’s ongoing opioid crisis, which is having a devastating impact on communities and health care providers who are struggling with increased workloads and the mental trauma associated with the situation.

“We know that many nurses are burning out under the extra pressures the crisis is having on emergency rooms, Insite, addiction centres and prevention sites,” said Sponton. “We feel that immediate attention needs to be paid to more harm reduction, publicly provided detox and rehabilitation services, better backup and relief for health care workers.”

BCNU said it is also happy the budget update included a $3.1 billion dollar investment to expand and update health facilities, although more work needs to happen to address the chronic nursing shortage across the province.

Lastly, there is a critical need for investments in seniors’ care, and mental health resources, something the last budget under the Liberal government failed to include.

“We have seen a drop in home support services even as the population increases,” said Sponton. “We will be working to ensure the new government makes BC’s seniors a priority by addressing the staffing shortages and minimum direct care hours we’re seeing per day.”

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