Concern continues to be expressed that when the Oceanside Health Centre opens its doors in the summer of 2013, there may not be enough doctors to provide the services that have been promised in the new facility now under construction in Parksville.
Local doctors Clair Biglow and Hugh Fletcher — practitioners with the Oceanside Division of Family Practice — spoke to the public at the Health and Wellness Fair on March 31 about the challenges they face when it comes to delivering health care in District 69.
The Talk to the Doctor workshops at the Parksville Community and Conference Centre drew large crowds and shed some light on what the doctors are up against as they navigate the health care system.
Biglow had both positive and negative comments when he was asked about the state of health care in our community.
He said as a family doctor it is frustrating and difficult to navigate the health care system and that is his biggest challenge in his Qualicum Beach practice.
“A great deal of my time is spent trying to talk to service delivery people to get you care.”
He said more cooperation is needed between those who delver our health care and added that he would like to see patients getting more help at home.
“My challenge is to try and keep people in their homes. I would like to see more respite care offered in the community,” he stated.
He admitted that his most difficult challenge is dealing with elderly patients and getting those patients good health care.
“I am more challenged by seniors than young people,” he stated.
He said part of the problem has to do with lack of funding and communication between doctors and other health care providers and unfortunately right now he doesn’t know the answer to the problem.
The goal of the Oceanside Health Centre is to provide integrated primary health care and community care, urgent health care and other onsite services to support and improve the delivery and coordination of health care services for Oceanside residents.
Biglow said he hopes the centre can improve local health care by offering several services all under one roof because currently there is a lack of coordination of health services in District 69 but he conceded the facility may not be sustainable.
“There may be doctors…or there may not be doctors. What is the model we want? The community has to come together to advocate for the services that are needed.”
He admitted that the drive for an after hours and urgent care facility has come about because doctors in the community have failed when it comes to providing patients that service.
He said currently there is urgent care being offered in the community 24 hours a day, seven days a week and doctors have a duty to deliver care every day however the quality and amount may vary depending on who is on.
He said with an incredible hospital in Nanaimo that already has expertise it doesn’t make sense to compete with it.
As for access to health care and complaints in the community about a shortage of family doctors Biglow said they need to determine if that is really the case.
He said there is a business model that needs to be maintained by a family doctor and realistically a physician needs an average of 1600 to 1800 patients to make a living.
“Do we have enough patients to make a living?” he asked and suggested that there be a central telephone line that people can call who need a doctor so they get an accurate figure on how many people in this area actually need a family doctor.
Cynthia Biccum who was at the talk and said she is without a family doctor and she would gladly volunteer to man such a phone line.
Rosemarie Hague who sits on the Oceanside Health Centre committee told the crowd that while the new centre may not be a perfect solution, she feels it is the best we can do for now.
“I would like beds but that is not possible at this point. I want it to go ahead and see what more we can do as time goes on,” she stated.
She too is hopeful doctors will be on board but at this point that isn’t clear.
“Perhaps some new doctors will come.”
Biglow pointed out that compared to other regions in the province, Oceanside has an incredibly healthy community.
He said it is his hope that with the sharing of information health care here will get better without having to spend a lot of money because right now every dollar is being watched closely.
“I think everyone is trying to make it better but we need to talk and communicate.”