Are you one of the many Vancouverites looking for a Family Doctor? If so, it’s not going to be any easier to find one in the coming years, with hundreds of Family Doctors preparing to retire!
CKNW reporters Roshni Nair and Chantal Coschizza look at what can be done to help curb the crisis.
“Hi my name is Roshni and I’m looking for a GP. For the past ten years I’ve had, I would say a kind of nomadic life-style.You know I’ve lived in multiple provinces, and I’ve really relied on walk-in clinics and school clinics for healthcare. I think it’s also because I’ve taken my health for granted, in that I haven’t needed really anything more than walk-ins. ”
For people like Roshini who are looking for a doctor, finding a GP in Vancouver can be a struggle. Family physicians are getting older, starting to retire, and leaving a gap for patients that hasn’t yet been filled.
Dr. Terry Chang is a Vancouver GP and the board chair of the Vancouver Division of Family Practice.
“Some of the things I worry about is, you know, how do I plan for my retirement, and how do I make sure that my patients are cared for in the future. If we look at our statistics, we find that there are sixty family physicians that are close to retiring, will be retiring and closing their doors in the next two years. And two-hundred family physicians that are going to be retiring or closing their doors in the next five years.”
How many patients does that leave without a GP?
“That sounds like a hundred-and-twenty-thousand patients in the next two years, and four-hundred-thousand in the next five years that are going to be losing their family physician.”
So that’s a big gap to fill.
Dr. Charles Webb is the President of Doctors of BC.
“The other thing we have to consider here is that younger physicians these days feel that work/life balance is very important. They work less hours than their predecessors. And on top of that, they’re tending to do extra training in things like emergency medicine and hospitalist training – meaning they naturally don’t set up practice in the community as doctors used to. And more than that, a lot of young doctors are having children and having families and they’re taking more time off to spend time with them. Which one would expect. So in combination, all of these factors certainly do place some barriers in terms of the number of GP’s available in Metro Vancouver.”
CKNW Asks: How important is it to you to have a family doctor?
So back to Roshini. In her search for a GP, do these numbers worry her?
“As I grow older, getting a GP is kind of like savings or you know other markers of adulthood, in that yeah, you know you only have one body and you only have your health. And it is something that you really can’t take for granted.”
So what can be done to fix this problem? GP’s like Dr. Chang are already stretched to the max.
“I see patients almost every day, except Fridays where I work with the division. And I book fifteen minute appointments and start anywhere from eight-o’clock to nine-o’clock in the morning and I finish around five. So I see about twenty-eight, thirty-five patients a day. In my practice I take care of four generations of families.”
MAP: Which B.C. regions are best and worst served when it comes to finding a GP?
Dr. Webb says over the past few years, a lot of advancements have been made to help families without a doctor get in touch with a GP.
“‘A GP for Me’ is an initiative that was developed by the Government of BC and Doctors of BC and it helps people who want to find a family doctor to find one. Patients can contact their local division and hopefully be triaged in a direction where they may be able to find a family doctor. The college has a list of doctors taking patients . And patients can contact the college or go to the college website and look at that list and try and find a doctor in that way. Across the province, seventy-seven-thousand patients have been matched with primary care providers since the inception of ‘A GP for Me’ program.”
So seventy-seven-thousand patients since 2014 in BC alone certainly does seem like an improvement. But Dr. Chang says more needs to be done.
“This is not a simple, one off answer. I think that we need to find ways to help physicians continue to provide excellent care with their patients. Perhaps looking at, ‘How can we do this with a team?’ So that we can stretch our resources that much better – so that we can actually take care of more patients within the same structure, the same number of family physicians.”
So how does Roshini feel about the whole situation?
“Having a GP, having access to health care, is something that I guess as a Canadian you are kind of entitled to. Or I guess I feel entitled to. So yeah I think having a GP would be a good thing.”