A doctor shortage in the Parksville Qualicum Beach region remains critical, according to an advocate from the Perfect Storm Group.
The Perfect Storm Group is a team of concerned stakeholders who came together in 2015 with a mission to increase capacity for primary health care needs in Parksville Qualicum Beach communities and to recruit primary care practitioners to the area.
Member Tom Davies told Parksville city council at a May 22 committee of the whole meeting that there are currently about 6,000 to 8,000 residents in the Parksville Qualicum Beach areas without a practitioner.
“That boils out to about five or six doctors that would handle that kind of number,” Davies said. “If we were able to hire six doctors today, the problem that we have is there’s no place to house them.”
In a 2017 report —Recruitment and Retention Primary Care Practitioners in Oceanside — it states general practitioners do not choose Parksville Qualicum Beach for their place of employment because of the small clinics, lack of management and resources and a lack of employment opportunities for their spouse/significant other. It also states newer grads tend to look for a different type of practice with a good work-life balance, flexible work schedule or a more lucrative area like hospitals.
Davies said Parksville Qualicum Beach isn’t just short of general practitioners, but also nurse practitioners, physiotherapists and lab technicians.
“We do have some solutions and part of the solutions are using nurse practitioners to do the medical primary care work as well as getting our hands on as many doctors as we can,” Davies said. “The real solution comes from the community owning, operating and running a primary care wellness facility.”
Davies said in order for a primary care wellness facility to come to fruition, the community needs to be aware of how serious the doctor shortage is.
“There’s all kinds of ways to support this whether it be something with the council, fundraising, who knows.We need to be looking at a needs analysis and finding out exactly what needs to be done here,” Davies said.
Davies believes a needs assessment would cost approximately $30,000.
“What we hope to establish is longterm, sustainable, top-quality health care for everyone in [Parksville Qualicum Beach], plus the hundreds of thousands of visitors that come each year,” Davies said. “I can’t imagine moving several more thousand people into this area and having to tell each and every one of them, ‘you want a doctor? Sorry, forget it, try someplace else.’”
Mayor Ed Mayne commended the group for their efforts in addressing the doctor shortage.
“It’s a very perplexing problem, isn’t it?” Mayne said. “Again it’s a very prime example of downloading from the provincial government, failing to do their job so it gets dropped onto the laps of municipalities, those that are least likely able to support the issue.”
City CAO Keeva Kehler said city staff have been looking into what the Ministry of Health and the provincial government is doing to address this issue.
“It is an issue in almost every community in B.C.,” she said. “I think there’s certainly a lot of work being done at the provincial level… of course a lot of [the steps] will take many years before there’s an on the ground result.
Kehler said council could consider looking for city facilities that could be offered for housing for medical practitioners.
The COW meeting was the second of four that will take place to discuss strategic priorities for the city that were heard at mayor Ed Mayne’s roundtable in January. The next meeting takes place on June 3 from 4-5 p.m. and will focus on affordable housing.