Waits of two to three hours have become all too familiar at Okanagan walk-in clinics but fears are growing the situation will get worse before it gets better.
“We are definitely short of family doctors, there’s no question and it’s going to get worse over the next few years,” Dr. Michael Koss, leading physician with the Central Okanagan Division of Family Practice, said
A 2014 survey done by the Central Okanagan Division of Family Practice showed that 38 per cent of family doctors were set to retire in the course of nine years.
“There’s a very big shortage looming,” Walk-in Clinics of B.C. founding director Mike McLoughlin said. “Even though we are producing more family doctors through the Southern Medical Practice Program we aren’t actually keeping pace with the lack or retirement of family doctors.”
That is expected to put even more pressure on walk-in clinics trying to serve a growing number of patients who don’t have a family doctor.
According to the Health Match B.C. website, there are currently more than 500 job postings for General Practitioners across the province.
“We are doing our best to recruit,” Koss said. “We have recruited 33 doctors since 2017 to the central Okanagan, we have 28 more that have contacted us and we are trying to recruit and we are getting them to visit and we are showing them around.”
In addition to recruitment efforts, the central Okanagan Division of Family Practice is also trying to come up with creative ways to cope through the shortage. That includes a program involving nurses with Kelowna being the first community in B.C. to give it a go.
“One of the programs, for instance, we’ve been funded from the Ministry of Health to put nurses in some of the practices to start to take some of the load off the family doctors,” Koss said. “We are actually the first in the province in the central Okanagan to do this, we have eight nurses that are working in practices in Kelowna.”
If successful, the hope is to expand the program to more family practices across the province.