“As of today, there is no doctor taking new patients in Langley,” said Ellen Peterson, executive director of the Langley Division of Family Practice.
Peterson’s department oversaw the two-year A GP for Me campaign, which aimed to connect more people with family doctors in Langley. They successfully “attached” 8,340 people to local doctors.
But retaining and recruiting new doctors remains extremely difficult.
“What we need is more capacity in primary care,” said Peterson.
Although most people have a family GP, the number without one remains high.
“What we’re finding is that the demand for that exceeds supply,” said Peterson.
“We are recruiting doctors all the time,” she added.
When people don’t have a family doctor, they have two options – a walk in clinic, or a visit to the ER at Langley Memorial Hospital. That, in turn, jams up clinics and the ER, causing long wait times.
“We’re seeing a lot of pressure on acute care,” Peterson said.
Langley has recently seen one major health-related announcement. The Langley Memorial Hospital emergency department will see an expansion, with construction starting next year. It will add a second trauma bay, separate entrances for walk-ins and ambulance patients, and new beds.
But the ER will still see a lot of business when people get sick after hours.
“In the middle of the night, emergency is the only option,” she noted.
Local health authorities are trying to bring in more GPs.
“It can take us up to two years or longer to recruit a doctor,” Peterson said.
They are also using nurse-practitioners for some tasks, and they have emphasized getting doctors for the frail, elderly, and for families with newborns.
Local politicians can help by making Langley an attractive place for doctors to practice, said Peterson.
With a provincial election looming, health care is sure to be one of the big issues.
What can the province do to help provide more medical care to local residents?
Peterson said the government needs to be able to put resources where they can be the most effective.
Asking patients to call the 811 nurses line to ask a nurse about their health issues can help – some callers may be told to go to the ER, others will be reassured that they can wait until morning.
A local partnership has also sent a nurse practitioner out to meet with homeless people in shelters and camps in the bush, to offer help and check them out before they turn up at the ER in major distress.