Video links grow as rural health care shrinks

Small communities have more than 400 doctor vacancies, with 'telehealth' and visiting specialists filling gaps

Doug Kelly

With patients in urban areas having difficulty finding a family doctor, the situation in rural B.C. is going from bad to worse, MLAs on the province’s health committee were told Monday.

Ed Staples, a member of the B.C. Health Coalition, described his efforts to improve the situation in Princeton, a community of about 5,000 people that four years ago was down to one doctor providing on-call service.

Princeton now has four full-time doctors and two nurse practitioners, but there are still people who can’t find a doctor in the region, including Penticton an hour and a half away. A recent search of the College of Physicians and Surgeons website turned up the nearest doctor accepting patients in Courtney on Vancouver Island, Staples said.

Health Match BC, the province’s web portal for recruiting doctors, nurses and other health professionals, currently has more than 400 general practitioner vacancies, with 37 communities seeking 85 doctors. The result is “bidding wars” between communities to offer incentives to relocating doctors, and foreign doctors using a rural community as an entry point before relocating to the Lower Mainland, he said.

The B.C. government has announced its latest videoconferencing service for health care, linking psychiatrists with young people in Cranbrook. The service is available twice a month at the local Children and Family Development office, supplementing visits by specialists in communities such as Cranbrook and Princeton. Health Minister Terry Lake says video conferencing and electronic health records are a key part of the solution for reaching patients across B.C.

Doug Kelly, chair of the B.C. First Nations Health Council, told the committee of an Abbotsford doctor who travels to Carrier Sekani territory around Prince George for part of his practice, in a pilot project with Northern Health.

Kelly said video links and nurse practitioners are part of the solution to delivering rural and remote care, but the main obstacle is the business model for doctors that has them cycling through as many as 20 patients an hour to bill enough to cover their office overhead.

Committee members were also reminded that graduating doctors are increasingly reluctant to take on the demands of family practice, especially in smaller communities where they may find themselves on call around the clock.

 

Just Posted

In final State of City Address, Hepner looks back at Surrey’s evolution over 30 years

Outgoing mayor announces Director of Housing and pokes fun at her ‘media missteps’

ZYTARUK: Hepner, to her credit, rose to the occasion

She could have used her last address to make political digs, pitches and slights. She did not.

Surrey woman’s ‘tell-all’ book meant to help those struggling with domestic violence

Second book details abusive marriage, how people failed her

Surrey district cop station closed by sewer backup

People seeking criminal records checks and other services can get help at any of the other stations

64 cats seized from ‘bad situation’ now in BC SPCA care

The surrender is part of an ongoing animal cruelty investigation with BC SPCA Special Constable

Recent jump in U.S. butter imports? All smooth, says Canadian dairy farmers

U.S. farmers recently enjoyed extra access to the Canadian market

Potential replacements for Phoenix pay system to start testing soon: Brison

Testing of prototypes to replace troubled federal pay system will begin within weeks

Nanaimo’s Tilray Inc. briefly the world’s largest cannabis company

The company, only listed in the US, nearly reached $300 in afternoon trading on Wednesday

Woman who helped kidnap Elizabeth Smart released from prison

Smart was 14 years old when she was snatched from her Salt Lake City home in 2002 by street preacher Brian David Mitchell

New York books editor out after backlash over Jian Ghomeshi essay

Ian Buruma, who was appointed as editor of the New York Review of Books in late 2017, no longer works for the publication

B.C. couple plans sustainable, zero-waste life in the Shuswap

Plan includes building a tiny house before the snow flies

‘Furry-tail’ ending for cat family rescued from under B.C. bridge

A special mewment for the kittens, soon to be sent to Chilliwack Animal Safe Haven

Housing slowdown forecast to cool B.C. economy

Conference Board says pipeline, trade uncertainty affecting investment

Most Read