There’s a doctor shortage on the Coast, and A GP for Me has been launched to try to fix the problem.
A GP for Me is a province-wide initiative that seeks to enhance the efficiency of individual doctors’ practices, conduct research into the doctor shortage problem in each community and develop targeted community plans to address it.
The initiative is funded jointly by the Government of B.C. and the Doctors of B.C. to the tune of $105 million over three years.
On the Coast a steering committee of doctors, patients and Vancouver Coastal Health representatives applied last fall for funding to implement the program.
Late last year they got word the program was a go on the Coast and now the team is starting their work to pinpoint problems here.
“I’m guessing we need heavy recruitment, but we’re in the very early stages of our planning process with A GP for Me,” said lead doctor Jane Bishop. “We don’t have a concrete plan here yet. We hope to lean on some of the other projects and learn from them, rather than reinventing the wheel.”
Pilot projects of A GP for Me were launched in 2010 in White Rock - South Surrey, Cowichan Valley and Prince George.
Through those pilot projects, more than 9,400 patients were matched with family doctors in those areas.
After seeing its success, the program was expanded this year to reach other communities throughout B.C.
While patients and doctors are feeling the effects of the doctor shortage on the Coast, there are no solid numbers to define the issue at this time, so Bishop said her group will likely undertake that research in the near future.
“The government’s been able to provide those numbers in other parts of the province, but for some reason they’ve had difficulty doing so for us,” Bishop said. “So we may take a small four-month project and actually get some real numbers.”
Later on the public will likely be asked for their input.
“We’re hoping to take it out to the public, but we don’t really have the detail we need yet,” Bishop said.
There is a way the general public can help right now, however.
“I think the biggest way that I see for the public to get involved right now is to make this community incredibly welcoming to any physicians to settle here because that’s where we’re going to both recruit and retain physicians, and that’s huge,” Bishop said.
“I don’t think people have any idea how hard it is to get physicians to come to rural communities at this point in time.”
A big stumbling block for new doctors to come to the Coast is the demanding work schedule that sees them take turns in the emergency department at the hospital and handle a wide variety of patient medical problems through their clinics.
“The variety of work is more like the old-fashioned physician we were all trained to be at one point in time. Many of the new graduates are not trained for that now. They have to seek it out. They have to want to do it,” Bishop said, noting a great quality of life in a beautiful area with friendly people can help entice new doctors to give it a try.
You can keep up to date with what’s going on with A GP for Me locally at www.divisionsbc.ca/sunshine-coast. Look for updates under the “local initiatives” tab.
© Coast Reporter