The race is on as local doctors try to find enough physicians to cover May's emergency room shifts at St. Mary's Hospital. Doctors managed to stretch their schedules far enough to fill April's shifts, but with no recruits in sight and with two doctors expected to retire in the next few months, the need to recruit has become increasingly critical. Doctors are calling out for help, but the answers coming back from the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority (VCHA) are mid- to long-term solutions.
On Feb. 16, Coast Reporter reported that Dr. David Lupton from VCHA had met with doctors from the Sunshine Coast Medical Society to discuss the doctor shortage. Lupton was then scheduled to return in March to update the doctors on VCHA's plans to address the problem. Last Friday Lupton returned, but he failed to bring an immediate solution. Lupton said the head of VCHA emergency services is going to be touring hospital districts over the next few months in search of a solution to what has become a province-wide problem. "This could help to find a long-term solution, but it does not a help us now. We need doctors," said Dr. Jane Bishop, president of the Sunshine Coast Medical Society. Moving towards a mid-term solution, Lupton told doctors that the British Columbia Medical Society has negotiated an incentive plan with the Ministry of Health, which is designed to bring young doctors into rural areas. The incentives will be for doctors who have recently finished their residency. The Sunshine Coast Regional Hospital District will receive four incentive packages. The ministry will be revealing more details about the plan in April. Bishop says these incentives might work as a midterm solution, but do not address the immediate problem.
Right now the doctors are focused on finding enough physicians to cover the emergency room in May. "We are going to be relying on word of mouth," Bishop said. Powell River-Sunshine Coast MLA Nicholas Simons says if people want to help the doctors, they should write to the Ministry of Health and to him, expressing their concerns.