Local physicians try to solve doctor shortage

local physicians working out of Brookside Clinic in downtown Lake Cowichan, posted a listing with theVIHA's career website

Sometime last week, local physicians working out of Brookside Clinic in downtown Lake Cowichan, posted a listing with the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s (VIHA) career website in response to the need for more physicians in the area.

Brenda Warren, in charge of physician recruitment for VIHA, says that the clinic asked for a posting and that VIHA has been aware of the doctor shortage. There is no time target for positioning a general practitioner at the clinic, however VIHA, in cooperation with the province and the B.C. Medical Association (BCMA) say they have been providing strategies that work towards improving access to primary health care for all communities and British Columbians.

To this end, the Ministry of Health established the General Practice Services Committee (GPSC). Besides working to help B.C. physicians become better able to meet the growing demands of caring for an aging population and improving clinical and office practices, $137 million has been invested to strengthen service delivery, ensure patients are full participants in their health care, and provide every British Columbian who wants access to a primary care provider access by 2015.

As well, the province has doubled the number of first year undergraduate spaces for medical students from 128 in 2003/4 to 256 in 2011/12, and this number will increase to 288 by 2014/15. The province says it has also established one of the most comprehensive funding and incentive programs in Canada to encourage doctors to set up practice and stay in rural parts of B.C. This includes: the rural incentive fund, which provides an incentive of up to $20,000 for doctors to fill a vacancy in a rural community; a rural recruitment contingency fund which provides funds to help rural communities with recruitment expenses; loan forgiveness programs for nurses, nurse practitioners, medical residents, pharmacists and other medical professionals who choose to work in under-served areas; rural education funding to support ongoing professional development; and incentives from the Family Physicians for B.C. for recently graduated physicians to establish practices in under-served communities.

However, Ryan Jabs, manager for media relations and issues management for the Ministry of Health Communications, says that physicians cannot be forced to work in any given area. Local municipalities can partner with VIHA to advertise and promote an area in an effort to attract physicians. He says that money has been put towards educating more physicians and providing incentive programs because the province is aware that it is important for residents to have access to primary care.

Having this access prevents chronic illnesses which can be a drain on the system and people, especially the elderly, get more sick because they have not received treatment.

Warren says that there are no bites yet on the recent listing, but she does know of a couple of interested parties who are currently looking at Duncan, Salt Spring Island and the Cowichan Valley.

Warren also says that Vancouver Island has been suffering from a general rise in physician vacancies over the last few years. She says this is due to the demographics of an aging physician population, with more physicians retiring or getting ready to retire.

In addition to the vacancy posting on VIHA’s website, VIHA works with Health Match B.C. to provide recruitment. The agency advertises in medical magazines and sends delegates to attend medical conferences where recently graduated physicians are likely to be.

For more information on this subject, visit viha.ca/careers, or healthmatchbc.org.