A grassroots movement is swelling in the south Okanagan to address the chronic shortage of general practitioners.
Breast cancer survivor Yvonne Lewis, who recently moved to Osoyoos, said the doctor shortage in the south Okanagan is a hard pill to swallow.
The office manager at the Desert Doctor’s Clinic said they get calls daily from people looking for a family doctor.
The clinic said it has more than 100 people on the waitlist but they are so overwhelmed by calls they’ve stopped taking down people’s names.
Across the street at the Osoyoos Medical Centre atleast 100 people are on the waitlist, although they anticipate the arrival of a new doctor shortly.
Local resident Brenda Dorosz is taking matters into her own hands.
She’s launching a petition to put more pressure on the local and provincial government to ramp up recruitment efforts of GP’s.
“This petition is just showing the dire need here in Osoyoos that we don’t have enough doctors for our current residents,” she said.
Lynne Rempel said with the absence of a walk-in clinic she’s forced to travel to the South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver for her medical needs.
“Nobody is taking new patients, got to go to the emergency room in Oliver, and I went, ‘Excuse me?’”
A general practitioner who spoke to Global News said Osoyoos is a snowbird and retirement town with little in the way of attraction for a young doctor and their family.
“It does give the impression of the snowbird capital of Canada and that suggests a lot of seniors,” said Rempel.
Doctors of BC, also known as the BCMA, called it the “perfect storm” with an increase in retirees moving to the south Okanagan as doctors themselves are retiring.
“We are not keeping up with physicians leaving practice or retiring and that is where the challenge is,” said President Dr. Alan Ruddiman. “The other part is the health authority continues to require at our community hospital that doctors cover the emergency department, provide the inpatient care and services. This is all done by the family doctors. We don’t have any specialists, we have no specialists in emergency medicine so we are spreading the doctors thin on the ground.”
The Division of Family Practice said it’s actively recruiting new doctors with two on the way to Oliver and Osoyoos later this year.