There are many seniors in the Okanagan without a family doctor, and a group of local physicians is attempting to change that.
The Central Okanagan Division of Family Practice is a non-profit group that has come together to match up doctors and patients. They held their first assessment Thursday at the Parkinson Recreation Centre.
“We’ve identified about 4000-6000 seniors in the area that don’t have a family doctor,” says Tristan Smith, the group’s executive director.
“And from there, we have a variety of ways that we’re trying to attach them, one of them being this mobile assessment unit.”
No medical care is performed at the assessment, but information is exchanged to learn background on the prospective patient before they meet with a doctor or nurse to complete their history. That information is then consolidated and given to the doctor they get attached to.
“We’re looking for areas that we can help this person in between now and them getting a family doctor, or do they need a doctor now? And that’s what we’re finding out.”
More doctor assessments are scheduled for the Rutland Seniors’ Centre and the West Kelowna Seniors’ Centre, and other areas are also being looked at in the jurisdiction.
One of the patients at Parkinson Thursday was 65-year-old Josie Watkins of Peachland.
She and her husband have lived in the area since early June and says it's been quite difficult for them to find a family doctor. They both came from Vancouver Island, where Watkins says she had the same general practitioner (GP) for the past 19 years.
Since moving to Kelowna they have been contacting doctors, but have been unable to find anyone willing to bring them on as regular patients with any form of surety.
They assumed Kelowna was a large enough centre to have enough doctors, but instead find themselves without a GP.
“We’ve been to the walk-in clinic several times to get prescriptions renewed and that kind of thing, but there’s no follow up with the walk-in clinic," she says.
“So it’s a little touch and go – when you’ve had a GP for 19 years and then find out there’s no follow up after they’ve assigned you prescriptions, you don’t know if those prescriptions are still appropriate for you. Those were the kinds of problems we were having."
Many of the family doctors in the city are part of the Division of Family Practice, which Smith says helps them make this all possible.
“Over the last year we’ve gone to them and said ‘this is our idea, are you OK with this?’ And we’ve had feedback on this from all of our members over the course of the year and some have agreed to take people on an urgent basis.”
And he hopes others will also agree to take some of these patients, once they have space available.
“Most doctors obviously understand the situation, and what we know is they’re all really busy. And so we were very careful with our approach, and this is one of the benefits with having doctor led organizations create these programs, because we’re very respectful of their time and of their situation," explains Smith.
“We arranged a program around their situations and their work environments – they’re really busy, but at the same time, they’re very caring people and they know when they have capacity. So we set up the system alongside that.
On duty Thursday was doctor Alexandra Deliyannides, who was recruited by Smith to help out with the initiative.
“I think it’s important for seniors to find family physicians, so if I’m in a position to help in that process, I will absolutely do that.”
And Deliyannides says she is also encouraging other colleagues to take on elderly patients if they have room in their practice.
Seniors or their family members from communities throughout the Central Okanagan can request an appointment with the Mobile Assessment Unit by visiting the Division website or sending an e-mail to: [email protected].