Family physician shortage a major problem in Williams Lake: CIRD

Two physicians will be closing their family practices at the Yorston Clinic in Williams Lake, leaving hundreds of patients scrambling.

Two physicians will be closing their family practices at the Yorston Clinic in Williams Lake, leaving hundreds of patients scrambling to find a new doctor at a time when other family practices in Williams Lake have little or no room to accept new patients.

When the two physicians leave the clinic on Dec. 31, 2015 and Jan. 31, 2016, the only remaining physician at the clinic will be Dr. Glenn Fedor.

Fedor said he has been urgently working with the Interior Health Authority and Health Match to try and recruit new physicians for the clinic but recruitment is a lengthy process.

“Unfortunately, these efforts will not provide any immediate relief for the patients who no longer have a family physician,” Fedor said.

The two doctors leaving the Yorston Clinic will be remaining in Williams Lake to provide general practitioner locum coverage, emergency department coverage and anesthesia, which are all much needed, said Trevor Barnes, executive director with the Central Interior Rural Division (CIRD) of Family Practice.

Losing a family physician is no small matter, Barnes added.

“For many patients it is a scary and worrying event, particularly for those persons who require regular follow-up to manage complex conditions.”

Meanwhile the CIRD continues to work on trying to attract physicians to the region and has hired part-time staff through the GP For Me program in Williams Lake and 100 Mile House that are dedicated to recruitment efforts.

Presently there are around 50 doctors serving the region, while the need is for 60, Barnes said, noting it is anticipated that another 30 per cent, or 15 doctors, will retire or move on within the next five years.

“Every physician in this town has an ear on the ground trying to encourage other doctors to come here,” he said, but noted for every doctor that expresses an interest in visiting Williams Lake to see what it has to offer, there are at least five other communities doing the same thing. “It is really competitive.”

Barnes said the CIRD has created some recruitment videos to be distributed by other doctors at meetings and workshops.

“We hope the videos will get someone interested in coming and seeing us,” he said, adding there are also welcome packages with fairly significant offers from local businesses.

There is a province-wide initiative to rethink the delivery of primary health care using a team approach, Barnes said.

In Ontario there are 200 Family Health Teams across the province being used by three million patients.

Barnes said Williams Lake now has an internist at the Cariboo Memorial Hospital, a pediatrician working out of the Child Development Centre and will be getting a child psychiatrist in the new year who will also work with adults.

“We are rich in the sense that we have a number of specialists, but we still need the GPs,” he added.

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