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.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Charges laid in 2019 single-vehicle crash in Surrey that killed young soccer star

Dilpreet Sandhu, 19, faces eight charges in early morning crash that killed Brandon Bassi

Surrey pushing the poor out of Whalley, public hearing speakers say

‘There is a war on the poor here in Surrey,’ resident Dave Diewert tells city council

IHIT investigating death of Surrey woman

Injured woman was taken to SMH early Tuesday morning

Surrey seniors call Seniors’ Centre Without Walls, a new-to-B.C. program

‘Crazy coincidence’ saw program connect soon after COVID-19 pandemic hit

Surrey Mounties seize guns, drugs and cash from Guildford residence

One man was arrested but no charges have been laid as investigation continues

If Trudeau won’t stand up to Trump, how will regular people: Singh

Trudeau did not directly answer a question about Trump’s actions amid protests

VIDEO: Internal investigation into aggressive arrest by Kelowna Mountie

A video allegedly shows a Kelowna Mountie striking a man several times

COVID claims 23rd Langley Lodge patient, making it the deadliest outbreak in B.C.

Coronavirus kills another senior at Langley care home, bringing B.C. total to 166

Family of dead B.C. football star urge changes to mental health policies in hospitals

Uko family disappointed in actions of Regina hospital, hosting public funeral service this weekend

Facing changes together: Your community, your journalists

Importance of accurate, ethical reporting more critical than ever

22 new COVID-19 test-positives, one death following days of low case counts in B.C.

Health officials urged British Columbians to ‘stand together while staying apart’

John Horgan says COVID-19 restrictions won’t be eased regionally

B.C. Liberals urge ‘tailored’ response based on infections

Feds get failing grade for lack of action plan on anniversary of MMIWG report

‘Instead of a National Action Plan, we have been left with a Lack-of-Action Plan’

Maple Ridge woman fights WorkSafe BC over police widow’s pension

Dalila Vroom says husband, Const. Rob Vroom, died as a result of PTSD from time with Abbotsford PD

Most Read