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South Surrey doctor adds voice to campaign for better wages, working conditions

Dr. Wais Darwish says B.C. physicians are ‘very underpaid’
A Semiahmoo Peninsula physician has added his voice to a campaign calling for more British Columbians to have access to an ongoing relationship with a family doctor. (File photo)

A family doctor who practices on the Semiahmoo Peninsula says B.C. needs better wages and working conditions if the province is going to make any headway in ensuring people who want a family physician can get one.

Dr. Wais Darwish – a physician at Hilltop Medical Clinic in South Surrey – added his voice to a campaign calling for more British Columbians to have access to an ongoing relationship with a family doctor, ahead of a rally taking place this morning in Victoria (May 19).

“The BC College of Family Physicians (BCCFP) recently released a report confirming that almost one million British Columbians are without a family doctor and a recent poll highlighted that British Columbians are worried about losing their family physicians,” Darwish said in a news release.

“As a family medicine physician, I care deeply about my own patients, and about all those in my community who don’t have access to a family doctor who knows them and can care for them over time.”

According to the BCCFP report, two thirds of British Columbians who don’t have a doctor say the reason for that is that they can’t find one, while 19 per cent say it’s because their former family physician closed their practice.

In a statement Tuesday (May 17) – issued following a meeting with Doctors of BC representatives – Premier John Horgan described the number of people without a family doctor as “a real problem.”

“While it’s one across Canada, it’s very acute here in BC,” Horgan says.

”I’ve heard from physicians throughout the province that they are both overworked and frustrated by the pressures they are under, which are compounded by the ongoing consequences of the pandemic,” he continues.

“This problem didn’t start yesterday. In 2003, there were 437,000 people unattached to a primary care practitioner and, by 2017, that number had doubled to 897,000. The impacts on B.C. families are clear today.”

Horgan noted he has “made it clear to the federal government that they must come to the table to address a lack of federal funding in health care throughout the country.”

READ ALSO: Horgan, other premiers pan Ottawa’s lack of help for health care

READ ALSO: B.C. doctor shortage sparks dispute over nurse practitioners

He pledged to address the problem, but emphasized that privatization is “one path we will not take.”

In B.C., most doctors receive government payments under a fee-for-service model, billing the Medical Services Plan.

Darwish said B.C. doctors have been “very underpaid” for years, compared to family physicians in other provinces, and have had limited wage increases compared to other professionals and industries.

He is not the first Semiahmoo Peninsula doctor to raise concerns.

In April, Dr. Tahmeena Ali said she was “on the brink of quitting every single day” due to an ever-growing workload.

READ MORE: ‘I’m approaching a breaking point’: South Surrey doctor writes

In a statement issued Wednesday (May 19), Doctors of BC president Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh and board chair Dr. Adam Thompson lauded Horgan’s direction for deputy Minister Stephen Brown “to immediately start working with Doctors of BC to develop new and/or enhanced payment models for longitudinal family medicine.”

“To ensure progress is made, the Ministry and Doctors of BC will develop a firm timeline with tangible outcomes. Doctors of BC will be engaging with our members so that all physicians have a voice,” the statement continues.

Horgan’s reference to a need for federal funding was also cited in the statement.

“The Premier also acknowledged that significant funding will be needed, beyond monies that may be transferred from the federal government.”

Today’s rally is organized by BC Health Care Matters. Attendees were asked to wear black if they do not have a family doctor, and white if they do.
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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