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‘We are definitely in a crisis’: South Okanagan mayors working to tackle doctor shortage

Click to play video: 'South Okanagan Mayors working to fix healthcare crisis' South Okanagan Mayors working to fix healthcare crisis
Two South Okanagan mayors are working to tackle one of the biggest health-care issues. As Taya Fast reports, thousands of Okanagan residents don't have and can't get a family doctor – Jul 4, 2022

The South Okanagan is facing a health-care crisis as thousands of residents don’t have a family doctor.

According to the BC College of Family Physicians, as of April, almost one million British Columbians don’t have, and can’t get, a family doctor.

Meanwhile, Oliver Mayor Martin Johansen says the South Okanagan is approaching 5,000 patients being unattached.

“So, what that does is it puts extra workload on the emergency department because your only access to health care is to go to the emergency department or travel to Penticton,” said Johansen.

“My biggest concern is a collapse of the health-care system. We are definitely in a crisis here.”

Johansen and Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff are working with the province to help solve this issue and recently met with B.C.’s Health Minister Adrian Dix.

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“It was a great meeting really, found it to be a productive meeting,” said Johansen.

“And I really thought it was a breakthrough that I had been looking for. And really what the breakthrough was, the minister wanted a followup meeting with us.”

According to Johansen, the area is lacking locum doctors, creating an overwhelming workload for the family doctors still practising. In addition, this year several doctors are retiring without a replacement.

“I think the workload is just becoming unsustainable for those physicians working 70 to 80 hours a week. This is not something that’s realistic,” said Johansen.

This issue hits close to home for McKortoff as she recently lost her family doctor.

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“I’ve lived here for 53 years, and I have always had a family doctor, up until June 30,” said McKortoff.

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“I no longer have a family doctor. My doctor has decided that he is not going to have a longitudinal practice.”

Mckortoff added that this issue will not be fixed overnight, and it will take a collaborative effort.

“The bottom line is we all want to be able to work together and provide medical services. And so many people say, well, look, you just do this, and you just do that. But that doesn’t work because there are too many issues that have to be locked down,” said McKortoff.

Johansen and McKortoff say that they will do everything they can to help address the health-care crisis.

The pair are working on solutions that they will present to B.C.’s health minister at their followup meeting.

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