A new petition is calling on the province to recruit more doctors into walk-in clinics and reverse the shortage that’s left thousands of British Columbians without access to a family doctor.
The petition, posted on change.org and on the Walk-In Clinics of B.C. Association website, has aimed for 300,000 signatures – the estimated number of B.C. residents who don’t have a family doctor, said Mike McLoughlin, the association's director.
Since 2010, he said 45 clinics have closed across B.C.
"In the past year, two clinics have closed in Victoria, two in Kelowna, two in Vernon and the last walk-in clinic on the north shore in Kamloops, NorKam Health, stopped seeing walk-in patients also last Friday."
The petition is also calling on the province to lift the "daily volume limits," that restricts family doctors to a capped number of patients they can see in a day before doctors can only bill for half the amount. Once a doctor has seen 65 patients, they can’t bill at all.
"It just shouldn't be there, it isn't there in any other provinces in Canada," McLoughlin said. "It's not about whether or not a physician can see 50 patients a day, it's that by arbitrarily setting at that number of 50, you're limiting that access."
The petition follows years of the association advocating for more family doctors, McLoughlin said, but the shortage has "just gotten worse."
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He noted the government is training new doctors and recruiting others to B.C., but the supply is not keeping up with the demand.
He said 290 family doctor positions remain vacant in clinics.
"You're going to see more people at emergency... and a lot more people lined up outside clinics," he said.
The group will be formally launching the petition Friday in Victoria, and the petition has been sent to MLAs across the province as well as Health Minister Terry Lake.
It will be available to sign in all 300 clinics in the association's directory.
With files from Vernon Morning Star.