In an act of desperation, a Penticton, B.C., couple has turned to social media to find medical care.
Like many other British Columbians, Teresa Linklater and her husband, Michael, have found themselves without a family doctor after theirs recently left his practice.
They’ve been put on waitlists, sent in applications, and tried online health care but as a last resort have offered an incentive of a $1,000 charity donation for any doctor who takes them on as patients.
“I don’t feel very proud of myself for offering in a sense what some people perceive to be a bribe but I see it as an inducement. A bribe was probably a fair term, but at the same time I have to get the conversation moving forward,” said Michael.
Michael, who has heart problems, needs regular checkups, referrals to specialists and prescription refills.
“Instead of trying to anticipate things, instead of, you know, having blood checks and cholesterol checks and a number of things that might prevent a major occurrence, I’m frightened that it will come to a point where I do have the occurrence and that maybe even fatal,” he said.
“I’ve had a heart attack, I’ve had triple bypass, I know that I need to see a cardiologist. Why do I have to have a referral from a doctor to go to another doctor when it’s obvious?”
Teresa added that although her health is not bad, she, too, has faced barriers navigating the health care system without a family doctor.
“I am scheduled for a regular mammogram, but I can’t even schedule that because I don’t have a primary care physician that they can send the results to,” said Teresa.
“How long is it going to be before I can get something? I’m just afraid things are going to slip through the cracks and we’re going to get, not just me, but people are going to get more sick and it’s going to cost the system more money and lives.”
The response to the post has confirmed what the couple already knew — that they are not alone.
“We’re offered something like a waiting list, only to find out that in many cases, it could be described as a parking lot,” said Michael.
“People have been on lists for three years, five years. One person responded they’ve been on the list for seven years.”
Nearly a million British Columbians don’t have a family doctor; that is almost 20 per cent of the population.
On Sunday the province addressed the shortage saying more doctors will soon be available to take patients.
“Family doctors trained outside of Canada aren’t able to practice family medicine because they lack a pathway to be licensed here,” said B.C. Premier David Eby during Sunday’s presser.
“We need to fix this. That’s why we’re taking action to help get more internationally trained doctors off the sidelines and into communities where they are so desperately needed.”
It was also announced that international medical graduates who are not eligible for full or provisional licences in B.C. may be eligible for a new associate physician class.
Additional changes will be made to allow doctors trained in the U.S. for three years to practice family medicine in B.C.
Although these steps are in the right direction, Micheal and Teresa believe these steps could’ve been taken sooner.
“We have a new premier who’s in place now with a lot of new ideas, but he was part of the old government. So why … weren’t these ideas coming forth several weeks ago?” said Micheal.
“Maybe politics should be set aside. The government and whatever the opposition and whatever other facilities are out there should start working together to come up with a solution and see if there is a way to really streamline the system so that everybody has reasonably equal access.”
For now, the couple hopes their offer will be the end of their desperate search for medical care.
“It just really makes me sick, that you have to wait so long to get something so important as a family doctor,” said Teresa.