We don’t need another crisis file

Is the possibility of have a lifelong relationship between family and family physician a thing of the past?

It isn’t just rural communities that have problems keeping physicians.

A retiring doctor in Saanich (population over 100,000, certainly not rural) says he was unable to even give away, never mind sell, his family practice.

Dr. Chris Pengilly, 68, called it an indication of a system broken beyond repair.

He said new doctors are interested in primary care but would rather work as hospitalists, locums or in urgent-care clinics.

Pengilly says his medical clinic has the latest equipment and computerized records and that duties are shared with a group of doctors. Even with shared resources and back-up, there have been no takers.

Simply put, doctors today don’t want the responsibility of owning a family practice.

Doctors of B.C. (formerly known as the B.C. Medical Association) says that the province needs about 450 new doctors each year to fill current demand. But B.C. med schools graduate less than 290.

“I don’t think there is a community in B.C. that is not looking for more family physicians,” Dr. Bill Cavers, president of Doctors of B.C., told the Victoria Times Colonist.

And because new doctors expect a healthier worklife balance, meaning many won’t commit to longer work days, he said it’s thought there will need to be 1.5 doctors to replace the average older retiring doctor.

It’s time for a look at how doctors are compensated, for one thing. It’s said the compensation for locums is so attractive that it actually acts as a disincentive to doctors going into family practice.

Has the family doctor become a thing of the past?

The sad thing is that the province’s health authorities’ answer to the problem will inevitably include the hiring of yet another executive to be in charge of yet another health care crisis file.


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