Video links grow as rural health care shrinks

Small communities have more than 400 doctor vacancies, with 'telehealth' and visiting specialists filling gaps

Doug Kelly

With patients in urban areas having difficulty finding a family doctor, the situation in rural B.C. is going from bad to worse, MLAs on the province’s health committee were told Monday.

Ed Staples, a member of the B.C. Health Coalition, described his efforts to improve the situation in Princeton, a community of about 5,000 people that four years ago was down to one doctor providing on-call service.

Princeton now has four full-time doctors and two nurse practitioners, but there are still people who can’t find a doctor in the region, including Penticton an hour and a half away. A recent search of the College of Physicians and Surgeons website turned up the nearest doctor accepting patients in Courtney on Vancouver Island, Staples said.

Health Match BC, the province’s web portal for recruiting doctors, nurses and other health professionals, currently has more than 400 general practitioner vacancies, with 37 communities seeking 85 doctors. The result is “bidding wars” between communities to offer incentives to relocating doctors, and foreign doctors using a rural community as an entry point before relocating to the Lower Mainland, he said.

The B.C. government has announced its latest videoconferencing service for health care, linking psychiatrists with young people in Cranbrook. The service is available twice a month at the local Children and Family Development office, supplementing visits by specialists in communities such as Cranbrook and Princeton. Health Minister Terry Lake says video conferencing and electronic health records are a key part of the solution for reaching patients across B.C.

Doug Kelly, chair of the B.C. First Nations Health Council, told the committee of an Abbotsford doctor who travels to Carrier Sekani territory around Prince George for part of his practice, in a pilot project with Northern Health.

Kelly said video links and nurse practitioners are part of the solution to delivering rural and remote care, but the main obstacle is the business model for doctors that has them cycling through as many as 20 patients an hour to bill enough to cover their office overhead.

Committee members were also reminded that graduating doctors are increasingly reluctant to take on the demands of family practice, especially in smaller communities where they may find themselves on call around the clock.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

NHL prospects returning to Penticton for Young Stars Classic

After a one-year absence the Vancouver Canucks Young Stars Classic is returning… Continue reading

South Okanagan swimmers and coach off to Euro 2020 in Belgium

Three members of the KISU Swim Club are headed to Belgium to compete in the Euro 2020 meet

Third South Okanagan show added for PAW Patrol Live!

A third show was announced for the PAW Patrol Live! The Great Pirate Adventure show at the SOEC

Proposal for public outdoor rink in downtown Penticton gaining traction

Outdoor rink, funded by the Penticton Vees, would always remain free to use for the public.

Four Canadian mega-bands ready to rock Penticton this summer

Big Wreck, Headstones, Moist, and The Tea Party coming to Penticton in June

Okanagan College art exhibit raises awareness around consent

The project has been to Vernon and will go to Penticton, Salmon Arm

January brings record snowfall to Shuswap ski area

Up to 800 downed trees removed so far from Larch Hills cross-country trail network

Letter: Canada could have its own king if Prince Harry, Meghan Markle move to B.C.

Royals could take up residence in one of Victoria’s homeless camps during Empress reno

North Okanagan employers to pay $25/hr for skilled foreign workers

Up to 300 applicants may apply under immigration pilot

Boy, 13, arrested after alleged assault involving girl at B.C. middle school

Boy alleged to have used ‘inappropriate levels of force’ to injure the girl

Protesters block entrance to Victoria government building to support Wet’suwet’en First Nation

A letter with four demands was delivered to the Ministry of Energy, Mines and Petroleum Resources

Hospital patient pleads guilty to dumbbell assault of nurse in Abbotsford

Neale Heath admits to assault causing bodily harm in attack last September

‘Epic sky palace’: B.C. businesses help create dream treehouse for boy recovering from cancer

‘It was kind of a bright shining beacon at the end of a horrible, dark tunnel’

VIDEO: Nickelback gears up for nostalgia tour

Canadian band joins Stone Temple Pilots for a summer tour that includes just one stop in Canada

Most Read