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Petition calls to keep health library open, accessible to doctors in B.C.

Worry for rural, remote doctors who rely on college’s online and physical library
A doctor wears a stethoscope around his neck as he tends to patients in his office in Illinois, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 2012. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeff Roberson

Amanda Ross-White isn’t surprised by the upcoming closure of one of Canada’s oldest health libraries, but it’s the impact on rural and remote doctors that has her concerned.

Ross-White is the vice-president of the Canadian Health Libraries Association, which is the national organization for medical librarians, and she said she was made aware the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. would be closing its library on Friday (March 15).

In the week since she’s found out, Ross-White has launched a petition on in hopes of reversing the closure, as well as written a letter to the college and Health Minister Dix. The petition has garnered more than 9,200 signiatures as of Thursday.

“People are definitely concerned that this is just a part of a larger issue of making things very difficult for family physicians. It’s already hard enough for family physicians.”

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Ross-White said doctors are already under a lot of stress and it could add to an already heavy workload for those doctors.

“This is just one other thing that they’re being asked to do. OK, now you have to subscribe to your own products. Now you have to do your own research. Now you have to spend your time on these kinds of tools.”

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia Library provides access to more than 6,000 medical journals. It also includes point-of-care tools, such as ClinicalKey, an app that has hundreds of full textbooks and journals focused on emergency medicine, obstetrics and gynecology, internal medicine, pediatrics and family practice; and BMJ Best Practice, another app that can provide guidance and context for comorbidities a patient may have.

If a patient has pneumonia, but is also 28 weeks pregnant, then that’s where the library can come in, Ross-White said.

“They would go and check with one of the tools to make sure that the current evidence recommends that vancomycin is still the best treatment, even for someone who might be pregnant.

She said in rural or remote communities physicians rely on health libraries to help get the best information. She estimated it could cost physicians as much as $4,000, if they were to purchase all of the tools on their own.

The college, in an emailed statement, said the decision to close was made by the board of directors “after careful consideration showing significant decrease in library use of the years.” The college says physicians and surgeons can instead use the University of British Columbia library or access medical journals online.

It added the particulars of the college’s decision “are not available to the public.”

All physicians and surgeons who hold a licence in B.C. were eligible to use the library, which was both physical and online.

Ross-White said more than 14,000 physicians and surgeons would have been registered to use the library, and four librarians and library technicians would have specialized in helping physicians with their research or questions.

She is hoping B.C.’s Health Ministry would step in, but added it can be confusing – even for people who work in this system – to determine who should be funding the health libraries.

“But somebody needs to decide to continue to fund this and it would be a shame to see the oldest what may be the oldest medical library in Canada be shut down.”

In her research, Ross-White said the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. library was founded in 1906, but the college didn’t take on funding the library until the 1960s.

Black Press Media has reached out to the Health Ministry for comment.

Lauren Collins

About the Author: Lauren Collins

I'm a provincial reporter for Black Press Media's national team, after my journalism career took me across B.C. since I was 19 years old.
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