B.C. medical specialists call for urgent meeting with health minister as patients are stuck waiting

Click to play video: 'B.C. specialists sound alarm about ‘crumbling’ health care system'
B.C. specialists sound alarm about ‘crumbling’ health care system
WATCH: More than two dozen health care specialists have written an open letter to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix, warning that the province's health care system is 'crumbling.' Julie Nolin reports – Sep 21, 2022

A group of 26 doctors has sent B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix a letter asking for a meeting to “express deep concern for the estimated one million patients waiting to see a specialist” in the province.

The specialist doctors who co-signed the letter say they have been hampered by years of increasing challenges compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.

One of the challenges addressed by the doctors is Urgent Primary Care Centres and emergency departments are overwhelmed and can’t provide immediate access to specialists.

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“Our entire health-care system is crumbling, but not enough is being done to improve specialist patient outcomes or shorten our overcrowded wait lists,” the letter reads.

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“If we do not work together to find solutions, specialty care in this province is going to erode even further. “

The B.C. government has been able to tackle some of the wait lists in the province, including a substantial drop in wait times for MRIs.

Read more: B.C. completes record-breaking number of MRI and CT scans

But these doctors say they have seen a recent increase in negative outcomes including a patient with sudden hearing loss who if seen sooner wouldn’t have become permanently hearing impaired.

According to the letter, there are currently over 16,000 people waiting for an echocardiogram in Vancouver Coastal Health alone and patients in the Lower Mainland and on Vancouver Island with new cancer diagnoses are waiting two to three months for their first visit with an oncologist.

The letter also mentions a lone respirologist in Northern Health had to close her practice to less urgent referrals for the last two years just to catch up and continue seeing urgent cases.

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There is also the example of a three-year-old with possible autism waiting more than 18 months for a formal assessment.

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“These are just some of the hundreds, if not thousands, of stories from across the province,” the letter reads.

“Specialists care for complex patients who are often too ill to advocate for themselves. We need to stabilize and strengthen our Specialty Care infrastructure to support this vulnerable population.”

Global News has reached out to Dix for comment.

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