Do you have a doctor on the Sunshine Coast? This is a question being asked by the medical community here as our health providers try to address the doctor shortage we have in our community.
The Coast has joined the growing list of B.C. communities that are running short on medical doctors.
So through an initiative funded jointly by the provincial government and the doctors of B.C., a GP for Me program has started its research here on the Sunshine Coast.
The program, which launched in 2010 through pilot projects in White Rock - South Surrey, Cowichan Valley and Prince George, was highly successful, as more than 9,400 patients were matched with family doctors in those communities.
Following that success, government expanded the program to reach more communities. The medical community here on the Coast, recognizing the need, applied last fall for funding to implement the program. Late last year, they received the good news that the program was green-lighted for the Coast.
So now begins the task of educating the public on the program and getting the vital information needed to ensure the Sunshine Coast can become another program success story.
A steering committee, made up of doctors, patients and staff from Vancouver Coastal Health, is now in place. According to lead doctor Jane Bishop, who we spoke to this week, there are no solid numbers to define the doctor shortage on the Coast. Bishop and her teams know they need more medical professionals, but just how many and in what specialty areas are just a few of the questions that still need answers.
Bishop admits they are in the early stages of their work and that they could take possibly a four-month project to get some of the real numbers. The public, of course, will be actively involved and their input will be needed.
Getting doctors to come to rural communities is a daunting task. Many might think that the Sunshine Coast is a wonderful place to live with great outdoor opportunities and a safe place to raise a family. While that is true, living on the Coast is not without its challenges. And many prefer the big city life to that of a rural lifestyle.
One of the other detrimental factors, according to Bishop, is the hectic work schedules and pressure put on medical staff, which sees doctors taking turns in the emergency department at St. Mary’s Hospital and then meeting the needs of so many patients at the Coast’s walk-in clinics.
As Bishop said this week, residents need to make new doctors and their families feel welcome when they come to this community, because that is a huge factor in keeping and retaining doctors.
So in the coming months, when you are asked for your input, please provide it. Help our medical staff meet the needs of our community now and in the future.
© Coast Reporter