To the editor;
Our community faces many challenges when it comes to access to primary health care. Many people living in Kamloops and area do not have a family doctor or a nurse practitioner and have not had one for some time. The local physicians who make up the Thompson Region Division of Family Practice have been leading and working hard to address some of these issues in a variety of ways.
As a community of doctors, we work with Interior Health, the Ministry of Health, Doctors of BC and community partners to advocate for our patients and our community. The division has been involved in ongoing recruitment efforts to bring new doctors to our community, hire temporary doctors (locums) when we need to be away, mentor new physicians and help new doctors start practices.
We are working to improve access to our own practices to shorten wait times in our clinics. We are also beginning to move toward a team-based care approach, including forming networks with other doctors and health providers to better support each other’s practices.
The division is working to support family physicians looking to expand their practices and take on new patients. Earlier this fall, it was erroneously reported that doctors cannot take patients from the Kamloops primary care wait list managed by HealthLinkBC. However, we have worked with physicians and our partners to develop a process for accepting new patients from the list.
That said, many family doctors are small business owners and are not employees of government or regional health authorities. Physicians who start a new practice or join an existing one may choose to attach patients in a variety of ways, including from doctors who have retired, for example.
In B.C., the provincial average number of patients for a family physician is 1,500, but family doctors in Kamloops have significantly more patients, on average. We would love to take on more patients. However, if we do so, we reduce access to our existing patients, which does not help them or the system. Adding more patients increases wait times, may affect quality of care and leads to physician burnout.
So we continue to work on a variety of approaches to address these challenges. We are involved in the recruitment of other doctors to our community. We have seen many positive changes over the past few months that aim to attract new doctors to come here to work and live.
We have welcomed more than 40 new physicians to our region during the last four years. Some of these doctors have started practices (both full- and part-time), some support other doctors with their practices by providing locum coverage and some have chosen to work in hospital settings and not have a practice in the community. Our efforts to recruit continue.
Many Thompson region doctors are leading local and provincial initiatives to make improvements to the health-care system and we often work extra hours on top of our daily patient schedule to make that happen. We feel positive and hopeful about this work with our partners and look forward to continuing to share our perspectives and provide more information to the community and public as we progress.
Dr. Chip Bantock
past chair Thompson Region Division of Family Practice