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Williams Lake city eyes action plan to address doctor shortage

Council hopes to bring concerns to health minister at 2021 UBCM convention
To bring attention to the critical shortage of health care professionals in the community, City of Williams Lake Council has requested a meeting with the Minister of Health during the Union of British Columbia Municipalities AGM and Convention in early September, with plans also underway to meet with Interior Health. (Black Press media file photo)

Williams Lake city council is hoping to meet with the minister of health this fall to discuss the area’s doctor shortage.

Local government officials can request to have scheduled meetings during the Union of BC Municipalities Convention with various cabinet ministers and during the regular meeting Tuesday, June 22, Coun. Sheila Boehm asked that a meeting about the doctor shortage with the Minister of Health be added to the list.

In advance of the September 2021 UBCM convention, city council also wants to alert Interior Health Authority about its concerns.

“We should express in a letter our concern about the doctor shortage that is occurring at our door step and that we are looking to bring in an actual plan that would attract doctors and support Interior Health,” said Coun. Scott Nelson. “I think we have to get on the leading edge and lend our support in finding more doctors.”

Coun. Boehm and Coun. Marnie Brenner told council they attended a meeting with the Central Interior Rural Division of Family Practice (CIRDFP) and Cariboo North MLA Coralee Oakes to share their concerns.

“The resolutions we have in place are for a long-term vision, but we need something immediate for the next year, for the next couple of years, while we are trying to figure something out,” Brenner said. “As you talk to more doctors, you are going to find that mental health is a big piece of the picture.”

Joanne Meyrick, program manager with the CIRDFP, confirmed Interior Health has posted six GP doctor positions for Williams Lake and four for 100 Mile House.

In the meantime, funding was secured earlier this spring from the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues to support locums in the immediate term to fill the gap until longer term recruits are hired.

A few locums have come to the area already to assist in the emergency department in 100 Mile House and a few more are coming in the summer to Williams Lake.

“Some of these locums are newly-graduated GPs who are currently looking for a place to practice, so locuming is a great way to get them to come to the area, get a feel for the medical community and hopefully decide to practice here on a longer term basis,” Meyrick said.

Since the Bridge Care Virtual Clinic was launched in October 2020 by the CIRDFP, more than 1,000 patients had appointments by the end of April.

Read more: Virtual health care clinic set to begin seeing Williams Lake area patients Oct. 26

The virtual clinic is supported by 11 local physicians and one nurse practitioner. Appointments are covered by MSP.

This service is offered to those who do not have a family doctor, and are located in the Cariboo-Chilcotin Region.

Additionally, 800 patients have been attached to a doctor since an centralized wait-list was also launched in October 2020, but there are currently 2,000 registered on the list waiting to be attached.

Meyrick said it is believed that could only be a portion of the people needing a physician.

“According to research done in 2018 when we started Primary Care Network Planning, we had almost 8,600 unattached patients in the region. We encourage anyone without a primary care provider to join this list so we can better understand what the actual unattached patient volume in the region is.”

People can register themselves or family members by going to and filling out a web form or calling the patient services co-ordinator Angela Elliot at 250-296-0070.

Read more:Doctor shortage weighing heavily on Williams Lake senior

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Monica Lamb-Yorski

About the Author: Monica Lamb-Yorski

A B.C. gal, I was born in Alert Bay, raised in Nelson, graduated from the University of Winnipeg, and wrote my first-ever article for the Prince Rupert Daily News.
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