EDITORIAL: Doctor shortage

Island Health is actively recruiting and advertising for doctors

It’s easy to blame Island Health for everything that goes wrong with the system in this region.

We should know, we do it often.

There are, however, some realities that should spare Island Health from the wrath of editorial writers and the general public alike.

Island Health has not created the worldwide shortage of physicians and other health-care professionals. And this is at the root of most so-called ‘problems’ with our system.

If you wait too long, perhaps hours, to be seen by a physician at the Urgent Care Centre in Parksville, it’s not Island Health’s fault. We have never heard of the health authority turning away qualified doctors for budgetary or other reasons. To the contrary, Island Health is actively advertising for and recruiting physicians.

How they treat these physicians when they do have them is another matter. Despite its taxpayer-funded nature, health care delivery and the relationships between the health authority and its doctors is a secretive world.

In fact, the relationship Island Health has with all of its employees and contractors is clouded in secrecy. For the most part, that’s understandable — privacy is paramount, we get that. However, when things go awry, Island Health goes into serious CYA mode and people are scared to go on the record for fear of retribution from the big, bad health authority.

That is simply not a healthy way to operate a publicly-funded entity. To avoid repeating scary, unsafe incidents, there’s a need for disclosure and yes, a need for Island Health to admit it has stumbled and is taking steps to avoid a similar stumble in the future.

All that aside, wait times at urgent care are a concern, have been since the new facility opened in September of 2013. Having physicians do this work off the side of their desks in addition to their own busy practices is not a prime way to operate an urgent care centre. In a perfect world, the Urgent Care Centre here would have four or five physicians dedicated solely to that facility. It is not a perfect world.

Consider where we live. Half a million gets you a fantastic house in an oceanside community that rarely sees snow or cold. Great golf courses. A talented and active arts community. If recruiting is difficult here, one can only imagine how difficult it is in less desirable locales.

— Editorial by John Harding

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