Protesters in Victoria call on province to address family doctor shortage

Protesters took to the steps of the Department of Health building in downtown Victoria on Wednesday afternoon (August 10) with a crystal clear message: everyone deserves a family doctor .

Camille Currie, founder of the organization BC Health Care Matters, said the provincial government can no longer afford to ignore the shortage of family doctors.

“We can’t keep waiting, we need action on this crisis now,” she told Black Press Media. “It affects our primary care system. It affects our hospitals. This affects ambulances. It affects everything in the healthcare system, so for them to sit idly by is no longer acceptable.

According to the BC College of Family Practice, nearly one million British Columbians do not have a family doctor. 40% more fear losing the doctor they currently have.

But the problem is not a lack of qualified medical professionals. There are plenty, in fact. British Columbia has about 6,800 physicians trained in family medicine, but only about half work as family physicians providing cradle-to-grave care that is becoming increasingly difficult to access.

Those who do not practice family medicine often choose to specialize, work in a hospital, or simply leave the province together. That’s because they can’t earn a fair wage that reflects their value to patients, according to Dr. Bridget Reidy.

Reidy, a practicing family physician and member of Family Doctors for Patient Care, was among the group of protesters calling on the province to take immediate action. If not, she says, she doesn’t know how long the health care system can stay afloat.

“Users with family medicine credentials can earn two to three times more doing something other than primary continuing care. And that’s why 40% of British Columbians are afraid their doctor will quit,” she said.

“Continuing primary care saves more lives than specialty medicine…if you want to get diagnosed with cancer, it usually takes more than one visit, it takes follow-up care. So even healthy people sometimes need ongoing care.


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