Some relief may be on the way for B.C. residents without a family doctor thanks to a new program involving nurses.
Finding a family doctor in the Okanagan and around B.C. can be very challenging.
According to the Central Okanagan Division of Family Practice (CODFP), 20 per cent of Okanagan residents do not have a family physician.
Recently the Central Okanagan became a testing ground for a new program funded by the Ministry of Health that involves nurses working in doctor’s offices.
“We were ready when the Ministry of Health offered this program to engage our members and we found eight practices who were ready and willing to try having a nurse in their practice,” Tristan Smith with the CODFP said. “So far we have nurses in Peachland, in West Kelowna, in Kelowna, in Rutland and in Lake Country in family doctor offices.”
One of those offices is CGB Medical in Kelowna where Heidi Howay, a registered nurse, has been working since October.
“I do immunizations, some injections, and allergy shots. I did ear syringing and foot care,” Howay said. “And for some of our patients who are older and take a little bit more time that gives me the opportunity to really feel like they have been heard and then I can distill that information down for the doctor.”
Dr. Janet Evans said having a nurse like Howay working alongside her helps her manage her patients more effectively.
“One of the things that the nurse does very well is patient education so if anybody needs to be educated on any of their medical conditions the nurse can spend some time with them, more time than I am able to,” Evans said.
And by freeing up a little more of the doctor’s time it could mean good news for those people without a family doctor.
“By providing that support to the physician, it opens more space in any one day for a physician to take on new patients in their office,” she said. “The way we have been practicing medicine for the last 20, 30 years is changing and due to increased demands by patients and complex diseases it is definitely the way of the future”
Minister of Health Adrian Dix told Global News Thursday afternoon that a new primary care plan will be unveiled in the coming weeks, one that builds on the current nurse program being tested out in the Central Okanagan.
Dix said the plan includes more nurses and nurse practitioners working in family practice right across the province, all in an effort to help ease the doctor shortage.