CENTRAL OKANAGAN – Unless you’re one of the ones searching, the numbers will likely surprise you. According to a recent survey, it’s estimated 25 per cent or roughly 45,000 people between Peachland and Lake Country don’t have a family doctor. The survey was conducted last spring by the Central Okanagan Division of Family Practice, a not-for-profit group of local physicians whose mandate is to improve patient care.
Results also revealed, of those residents that don’t have a family doctor, 89 per cent want one, but can’t find one.
For Darcine Bowman, 60, it was a six month search after she moved to Kelowna a year and a half ago.
“I literally called all of them with no luck,” says Bowman. “Coming from Calgary I never knew there was a problem. You relocated to a new community there, you got a new family doctor.”
Now that the survey results are, the group of local doctors is making an action plan, taking aim at one particular patient demographic: seniors.
“Seniors are particularly vulnerable because they do have higher needs than a lot of people,” says Dr. Gayle Klammer, a local doctor who is part of the Division of Family Practice.
“We know that those [seniors] who have a family doctor are less likely to get seriously ill, less likely to visit the emergency department and if they end up in hospital they have shorter stays there,” says Dr. Klammer.
The group will look to start a seniors registry, setting up clinics at community centres across the Central Okanagan to gather background information about area seniors to match them up with local doctors. Those clinics are set to start up in October. There’s also a plan for aggressive doctor recruitment and retention, which will benefit all patients.