For years there has been a need for more doctors in the region, but on Jan. 9, the South Okanagan Similkameen Hospital District board voted to maintain their current financial model instead of budgeting for recruitment.
The staff recommendation that was presented included a line that specifically noted the model does not include funding clinics to facilitate physician recruitment, a line that was removed from the motion the board ended up passing.
This is not necessarily the nail in the coffin for the RDOS supporting additional primary care clinics in the RDOS, a significant factor when it comes to motivating doctors to move to a community according to the South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice.
The financial model of the SOSHDFP allows the regional district to provide funding to projects that Interior Health presents to them and that are designated under the provincial Hospital Act. Through the funding request, the RDOS can provide up to 40 per cent of the project’s funding.
Interior Health will be presenting their funding requests for the year to the SOSHDFP board on Jan. 21.
Regardless of whether those requests include funding for primary care clinics, there is still a need for more doctors in the region.
According to the Division, there have been 12,000 unattached individuals in the RDOS who do not have a family doctor due to their previous one retiring without a replacement, or having recently arrived in the region.
The SOSDFP currently maintains an active patient attachment list (PAL) where unattached individuals can put their name for the next available opening. The list currently has close to 5,000 names on it, and since May 2019 there have been 4,500 who have been attached to local doctors.
To cover every name currently on that list, the region needs at least five additional family physicians according to Julie Young, the member services manager with the Division.
Those five additional doctors would be on top of the 81 general practitioners currently in the RDOS that maintain traditional community family practices, each typically having a practice of around 1,200.
The Division currently estimates that up to 30 percent of those doctors will be retiring in the next five to 10 years.
“That translates to about 25 individuals, many of whom serve their communities in a variety of contexts beyond their clinic walls,” said Young. “They work in rural emergency departments, maternity clinics, hospital inpatient services and long-term care facilities, to name a few.”
To address the ongoing lack of doctors, divisions across Interior Health have been working on a collaborative recruitment strategy, while the local South Okanagan Similkameen Division is working with Health Match BC, the UBC Okanagan South Family Medicine Residency program hosted at Penticton Regional Hospital and with the Ministry of Health efforts to develop Primary Care Networks.
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