Some good news for Central Okanagan residents without a family doctor

Hundreds of Central Okanagan residents will soon have a family doctor after the recruitment of seven new physicians

Like many other communities in B.C. and Canada, Kelowna has been struggling with a doctor shortage for some time.

Local residents Nancy and Reg Butler can relate.

The couple moved to Kelowna from Calgary two years ago and have been without a family physician since.

“I have phoned doctor offices all throughout Kelowna and asked for a doctor, and no one has been able to get us into an office,” Nancy Butler said.

But there is some relief on the way for patients like the Butlers.

The Central Okanagan Division of Family Practice has announced that it has successfully recruited seven new family doctors.

“This is a huge achievement,” lead physician for recruitment and retention Dr. Milt Stevenson said. “We can probably characterize this as the perfect storm, a bunch of stars aligned, and, after a lot of hard work over this three-and-a-half years, we have a bulge of doctors all arriving at the same time.”

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Six of the doctors are already in the Central Okanagan and starting up their practices with the seventh coming in the next few weeks.

“They are from all over. Most of them are Canadians and they are from around British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan,” Stevenson said.

It’s estimated that some 30,000 residents in the Central Okanagan are without a family doctor, a number that will be reduced with these latest doctor recruits.

“Right now, it will involve 5,000 patient attachments,” Stevenson said.

The Butlers are among those who have now secured a family doctor as a result.

They said it will enhance their quality of care.

“So that you would have a better continuity of care and just a better understanding of me as a patient rather than having to visit a different doctor each time,” Reg Butler said.

Four of the doctors will work out of clinics in Kelowna, with two in West Kelowna and one in Lake Country.

Dr. Bernard Ruane is one of new doctors.

He came from Williams Lake and started working in Kelowna in mid-August.

His patient list is quickly growing by about eight new patients every day, many of them seniors.

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“I know I am going to have a lot of elderly patients, but that’s actually a big part of the reason why I came here,” Ruane told Global News. “I came here so that I would have a lot of elderly patients.”

With recruitment efforts ongoing, there may be more doctors on the way for the Central Okanagan in the coming months.

“We are very excited because we see more doctors arriving down the pipeline over the next six to 12 months,” Stevenson said.

If you are without a family doctor, you can access an online form by clicking here.