B.C. health minister sets goal to increase access to medical care

NDP leader Adrian Dix speaks at a rally protesting plans to turn a rock quarry near Shawnigan Lake into a dump site for contaminated soil. Kylie Stanton/Global News

The promise to get every British Columbian a family doctor by 2015 didn’t work out for the B.C. Liberals but B.C. NDP Health Minister Adrian Dix said getting people access to primary care providers is one of his top priorities for 2018.

“Part of our effort is to develop urgent care centres but also to work with doctors and nurse practitioners and others is to ensure that people get the care they need in their community, that they don’t end up in hospital because they don’t receive the appropriate primary care and that is a huge priority for the health care system and one I’m focused on,” Dix said.

WATCH: NDP announce plan to create urgent care centres in B.C.

Click to play video: 'NDP announce plan to create urgent care centres in B.C.' NDP announce plan to create urgent care centres in B.C.
NDP announce plan to create urgent care centres in B.C – Apr 17, 2017

The minister said there are challenges, particularly with the skyrocketing cost of finding space for family doctors to open practices and clinics.

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“I think the future of health care is in team-based care. Health care professionals from doctors to licensed practical nurses to nurse practitioners to pharmacists being able to work to the full extent of their skills and work in teams,” he said.

READ MORE: B.C. doctor shortage about to get worse as more physicians reach retirement age

According to the Canadian Medical Association Journal, about 15 per cent of British Columbians don’t have access to a regular family physician. The journal said with a new wave of physicians near retirement, the problem will only get worse.

“About 40 per cent of physicians are over age 55 so we are looking at quite a large number that could be retiring in the next few years based on the study that we did,” Lindsay Hedden of UBC’s School of Population and Public Health said in December.

READ MORE: Surrey is getting a new hospital, but when, where and how much it will cost remain unknown

Billing data shows the average doctor in the province retires at the age of 65, rural doctors retire two years earlier than that at the age of 63 and female physicians retire at 61.

Despite challenges, Dix said he’s committed to finding solutions to get people the care they need to keep them out of hospitals.

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