A Victoria-based family doctor says the B.C. government hasn’t paid her for the month of January, and it has her considering leaving the province during a doctor shortage.
Dr. Emanuela Tura says all of her invoices for last month have been rejected.
“I have to resubmit the rejected invoices sometimes multiple times,” Tura said. “This is the first time that all my invoices were rejected. My experience for the past two years has been that about 30 to 50 per cent of my invoices are initially rejected. Some payments are never received. As this occurs every pay period, the number of unpaid invoices keeps growing.”
The process to resubmit rejected invoices can take three to nine months.
“I spend about a day a week trying to sort out payments that I am not receiving and handling various bureaucratic issues when I could be seeing patients instead,” Tura added.
British Columbia’s Medical Services Plan (MSP) says the problem is a glitch. Doctors typically have an electronic medical record system to chart patients’ information, and they can submit claims to MSP from this computer platform.
“MSP may reject our claims due to IT issues between MSP and our electronic medical record system,” Tura said. “I use an electronic medical record system that is common in Victoria and B.C. The MSP system is designed to reject some claims. This may require doctors to resubmit them multiple times. MSP may need to process them manually, which may take from several weeks to several months.”
Tura’s family is keeping her in B.C., but she says she can’t continue working under these conditions.
“I feel like I keep hitting a wall any time I try to provide care in Victoria,” Tura said. “Providing care here seems like an impossible task. I have certainly seen a number of hospital doctors struggling with their payments and eventually leaving the job.”
Tura previously worked in Brisbane, Australia for almost two years, where she was paid every week.
“Australia is light years away from B.C.,” Tura said. “In the city, there are family doctors at every corner. The access to care is much easier. The Australian government partially or fully subsidizes most medications, as well as many of the allied members such as psychologists, dietitians, audiologists, chiropractors and physiotherapists. Hybrid care is available for medical services as well.”
B.C. Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon, provincial Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau and Liberal health-care critic Shirley Bond have all spoken with Tura about this issue.
“They are all very supportive,” Tura said. “I believe they have tried to bring this to the attention of the Ministry [of Health]. I haven’t seen any outcome yet.”
Tura says Bond and Falcon are looking into the problem.
“In order to change, it would require the Ministry of Health to admit that the MSP payment method is flawed and to request MSP release payments immediately,” Tura added.