Mayoral candidate Sylvia Bishop has unveiled her Team Delta slate’s plan to use future income from the soon-to-be-built casino to attract more doctors to the community.
Bishop announced the plan as part of her campaign “kick-off” yesterday (Aug. 20) at Ladner Fisherman’s Hall, saying her proposal to entice family physicians to Delta was the first component of a five-point “Action Plan on Health Care” that Team Delta will unveil over the coming weeks.
“It is a well-documented fact that the City of Delta, along with other communities in the Fraser Health Authority region, has far fewer family physicians than cities and towns elsewhere in British Columbia,” Bishop said in a press release.
“Although we understand that both Fraser Health and the Province of B.C. are working diligently to recruit more doctors and other health-care providers, the truth is that Delta has a growing and aging population. As a consequence, our city faces a real need for more general-practitioner physicians.
Bishop’s plan would use the forecasted revenues from the new casino being built by Gateway Casinos and Entertainment Ltd. at the site of the Delta Town & Country Inn to attract new doctors to the city. Once it’s up and running, the facility is expected to bring $1.5 to $3 million of new annual revenue the City of Delta.
“Our city is fortunate to have new casino-related revenues that will allow us to address pressing community needs,” Bishop said. “Our own research, combined with ongoing discussions with local residents, lead us to believe that health care in Delta is a key challenge that must to be addressed.
“While many Delta residents believe that our existing health services are generally adequate, they also have told us that considerable improvement is needed. In addition, our changing demographics signal that Delta soon is going to see a marked increase in the demand for GPs and other health-care providers.”
According to 2016/17 Ministry of Health data included in a backgrounder that accompanied Monday’s announcement, 1,593 general practitioners serviced the Fraser Health region, which covers more than 1.8 million people in communities from Burnaby to Hope. Those doctors delivered more than 8.5 million services in that time.
By contrast, 1,618 GPs worked in the Vancouver Coastal Health authority, providing just under 6.5 million services to a population of just over 1.18 million people, while 1,246 doctors in the Vancouver Island Health Authority provided a little more than 4.5 million services to a population of over 793,000.
Broken down by population, that equates to about 88.3 GPs per 100,000 people in Fraser Health, versus 136.8 in Vancouver Coastal and 157.1 on Vancouver Island.
“It’s distressing that the province’s numbers for Fraser Health … show us having only a little more than half of the proportion of GPs that work on Vancouver Island,” Bishop said. “Looked at another way, across B.C. as a whole there is one GP looking after 801 people, but in Delta we have a single GP caring for an extraordinary 1,050 residents.
“The plain fact is that with our aging and growing population, the City of Delta needs more, not fewer, family physicians than most other communities in B.C.”
Bishops proposal builds off an earlier promise to, if elected, create an economic development office at city hall to attract business to Delta.
“Business people in the 21st century know that the variety and quality of services available to their employees is vital when it comes to decision-making as to where they should look to locate, re-locate or expand,” Bishop said. “By increasing the number of family physicians who live and practice in our city, we believe that Delta will become even more attractive to investors and others seeking to do business with us.”
Bishop said the proposed economic development office would take the lead on GP recruitment and retention, possibly offering financial incentives such as student loans and bursaries to medical school students who contract to practice in Delta upon graduation, or covering recruitment visit costs (air fare, accommodation, meals and “other incentives”).
The office could also potentially provide low-interest or forgivable loans, free or low-cost “community membership fees,” subsidized re-location expenses, etc. to GPs who move to and open a practice in Delta.
Also, it could provide “practice-establishment support” by assisting medical school graduates and re-locating family physicians with on-going business challenges, such as finding new nurses and office staff, arranging office and utility contracts.
Bishop pointed out that many provinces and municipalities across Canada already have a variety of physician recruitment programs.
“According to studies undertaken by the Saskatchewan government over the last decade, the average incentive package provided by regional health authorities across Canada is $20,000 for the first-year of service. For the average municipality, that first-year recruitment package averages about $42,000.
“I do not believe that our physician recruitment costs will be that high, but the fact is that our new casino revenues provide Delta with a special opportunity to examine how we can attract additional family physicians to the city and improve the health-care services available to local residents.”
The civic election takes place on Oct. 20, 2018.