Walk-in clinics say they're on 'edge of crisis' from B.C.'s doctor drought
B.C. doctors are sounding the alarm over the province’s ongoing physician shortage – saying walk-in clinics are closing because of it.
The Walk-In Clinics of BC Association is launching a petition this Friday to ask the province to train, recruit and fairly compensate more family doctors.
It’s also calling on the government to eliminate red tape that prevents GP’s from seeing patients in a timely fashion, saying more than 300,000 people in the province don’t have a doctor, and those who do wait too long to see them.
“I think we’re just teetering on the edge of crisis. Right now we’re just holding on by the skin of our teeth,” said Dr. Ian Bridger, who runs four walk-in clinics in Victoria.
Bridger says the current doctor shortage is so bad that existing walk-in clinics are shutting down as doctors burn out.
“Family practice used to be a relatively simple job, and it’s become probably one of the most complicated jobs in the whole of medicine,” he said.
Association spokesman Mike McLoughlin says that 45 clinics have either shut their doors or stopped offering walk-in service in the last five years.
Part of the problem is that becoming a GP just isn’t as attractive to young doctors as specializing in a field, he says.
“Specialists earn a lot more than family doctors do, and family doctors have to carry a much more sizeable overhead with their clinics and practice sizes, whereas specialists work out of the hospital,” he said. “We really need the doctors in family medicine.”
The province says despite that, there are currently more doctors working in the province than ever.
Data from the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons shows there were 6,042 general practitioners in the province as of Feb. 2016, up from 5,875 in 2014.
The province says it has taken additional measures to increase the number of doctors like expanding entry-level residencies for international graduates, and doubling the number of undergraduate medical school spaces from 128 in 2003 to 288 in 2011.
With a May 9 election on the horizon, the BC NDP has also seized on the association’s campaign to hire more doctors.
With a report from CTV Vancouver Island's Scott Cunningham
"While thousands of people can't see a doctor when they need one, Christy Clark chose to give a billion dollar tax break to the top 2%," the party said in a statement. "John Horgan will cancel Christy Clark's giveaways to her rich campaign donors and fix the services that British Columbians count on."
The association has launched a petition on Change.org, and says it will launch an official petition this Friday at a conference in Burnaby.