Years ago, B.C.’s medical school at UBC had one of the lowest enrolments in Canada per capita because, in part, it was reasoned, doctors graduating elsewhere would flock to beautiful B.C.
Worked for a while until reality hit. Then the Gordon Campbell government funded a needed expansion and a novel multi-centric school, first distributed in Victoria then Prince George and now Kelowna, all connected with UBC by new video interactive technology. We have jumped from 60 (my 1968 graduation class; three females, 57 males) to 288 students per year with about a 50-50 split female-male.
Yes in Parksville Qualicum Beach we have insufficient numbers and aging doctors whose dedicated services will soon need replacing, but the shortage is compounded by population growth, increasing numbers of seniors and with a chronic disease burden, many tourists, plus on the medical side, new graduates (female and male) who want a more balanced life, more time with patients, and less time spent on the business aspect of practice.
Hence, we actually have more doctors in the province but they are practising differently than their forerunners. To avoid the small office, old-style practice, newer doctors are gravitating to hospitals (hospitalists) and walk-in clinics (that fail to provide continuity of care), making the community doctor shortage worse, especially here where we have neither a hospital nor walk-in clinics.
The solution for communities, employed successfully elsewhere in the western world, is team-based multidisciplinary care that the Ministry of Health and B.C. Doctors have recently raised after having acknowledged the GP for Me program cannot complete its envisioned goal. The team delivery model can provide excellent care outcomes, is more efficient and is one with which newly trained doctors are comfortable.
This model was the conceptual vision of Primary Care at the Oceanside Health Centre (OHC), but never realized fully — a situation hopefully soon to be rectified. Our Division of Family Practice in Oceanside is promoting the development of a similar multi-doctor professional clinic. Both health centres, fully developed Primary Care at OHC and a new multi-professional clinic would provide the practice expectations of young physicians and help fix our present and impending doctor shortage.
James DimmickQualicum Beach