More docs but long waits

Re. Family doctors in B.C.

Recently, Castanet presented us new data (in a story about) the number of family doctors working in B.C.

The article described how 708 family doctors were added and the total number of doctors working in longitudinal family practices as of Dec. 31, 2023 stood at 4,997. Enthusiasm almost made us blow our trumpets over this increase in family doctors.

Was it good news? In a way yes. However, was there reason to jump for joy like our health minister did? Reality on ground is, once you have seen your family doctor and he (or she) gives you a referral for an X-ray, U.S. exam or a consultation with a specialist, you are easily faced with waiting times of four, six, eight months or even longer.

Once your specialist has seen you, and it appears you need surgery, you may hear that you are again facing another waiting period of six to 12 months, or sometimes even longer.

Imagine the current bottleneck in family practice had been eliminated completely, but then it appears the road to medical recovery is still full of stubborn hurdles.

Don’t misunderstand me please. The news reported on Castanet was encouraging. But the picture presented to us was incomplete. As (British Columbians) age, so do our doctors. If we want to know the true impact of the addition of these 708 new family doctors, data should be provided on actual hands-on hours available for family medicine over the last, let’s say 20 years, in relation to the population.

As family doctors, who often postpone their retirement because they care about their patients, start reducing their working hours, the total number of doctors is not a measure of whether we are improving, The total amount of service hours in relation to the growth of our population will tell us whether we are or not.

After all, in the recent years we have repeatedly been told up to 30% of Canadians still cannot find a family doctor.

It is necessary for our politicians to start working with our healthcare officials in order to rapidly increase the number of nurses, lab technicians, medical student positions, training positions, surgery theatres and ICU beds as well as eliminate roadblocks for immigrant doctors and nurses who currently struggle to obtain certification.

Is the European, African or Asian human body different from the Canadian body? No. There are currently more than 32,000 nurses living in Canada who have been trained in foreign countries and cannot get a certification here.This is an unnecessary gatekeeper.

Closer to home, with the high influx of new residents in the Okanagan (I feel) it is necessary to build an additional large hospital like Kelowna General on the Westside. KGH could be the centre of excellence for heart diseases, while the new hospital could become a centre of excellence in another medical field.

Removing the gatekeepers is an easy fix as soon as B.C. and federal politicians show their willingness to do so. Is there a funding problem? In 2012, I paid contributions for the Medical Service Plan (MSP). Now I pay zero. I would be happy to pay a substantial monthly premium for public healthcare, as long as it becomes readily available for every resident in B.C. with reasonable wait times in every discipline.

Is there any politician in B.C. who wants to get serious about healthcare for all, rather than only providing lip service? Our doctors and nurses are ready to go for it.

Ronald Ratgers, Kelowna

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The opinions expressed here are strictly those of the author. Castanet does not in any way warrant the information presented.

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