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LETTER: Solutions needed for health-care crisis in PQB area

Local physicians offers variety of suggestions
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It is past time for the family doctors of this area to voice our opinion on the present health care crisis in our area. Everyone in the area is aware of the family physician shortage.

We currently have roughly 9,000 to 12,000 residents of Parksville Qualicum Beach without a doctor.

With recent retirements and practices closing for health reasons the problem has worsened. Since the early 2000s the population has grown 25 per cent, yet the number of family doctors has decreased from 25 family practices to 15.

Half of these practices are held by doctors who are planning to retire in the next five years. Even with addition of Nurse Practitioners we are not close to the old complement of practitioners. Retention and recruitment has been difficult.

Newer family physicians do not tend to find traditional practices desirable as they require management that they are not interested in doing. It has been more desirable to take a salaried position as a hospitalist or doing shifts in an ER or urgent care clinic. The government and our local health authority have made some efforts to try to address manpower issues with limited results to date. The new LFP system for remuneration shows promise in attracting physicians to family practice . What we need is a governmental plan to incentivize doctors to take on family practice.

Civic governments and the local divisions are pumping money into renovations on clinics to try to entice practitioners here with offers of one-year free rent. The problems are obviously numerous and complex but we feel can be solved with some creative thinking, proper resource application, and the willingness of governments of all levels to adequately fund recruitment and retention.

Your local physicians have the following suggestions:

• Instead of building and renovating new clinics, recruit physicians and nurse practitioners to join existing clinics. Many have space, and the addition of someone at the existing clinic would allow them to take on more patients and reduce burnout. Physicians considering retirement might be willing to practice longer with a reduced workload.

• Make funding available to all clinics and physicians.

• Programs must be guaranteed for a significant period of time. Too many times over the past 25 years the government has created a program which lasts for a year or two then the funding is pulled and the program ends leaving a myriad of problems for physicians involved.

• Streamline the process for licensing foreign medical graduates. Doctors who have trained in equivalent programs (UK, USA, Australia, etc.) including Canadian citizens who had to go overseas to train due to lack of med school spaces here, should be offered placement if they pass their licensing exam.

• Increase med school placement and prioritize training family physicians

• Create a funded Locum program. Hiring physicians who are recently retired or those who are at the start of their career could provide coverage for local physicians needing a break for holiday or medical leave.

Family doctors love their job and are privileged to look after the citizens of Oceanside. We cannot solve this issue and need your help.

Please contact your political representatives at all levels to find out what they are doing about this crisis.

Dr. R. Waite

President, Mount Arrowsmith Medical Society