The following was sent to B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and filed with the Driftwood for publication.
By Curt Firestone
The problems at Salt Spring’s Lady Minto Hospital are synonymous with the systemic problems throughout the British Columbia health-care system. In a very piecemeal approach, you and the Premier have started to resolve the crisis, yet there is a long way to go. The public has yet to see the comprehensive B.C. plan to resolve our health-care crisis. There does not seem to be any plan for rapid resolution of the huge shortage of primary care providers, including family doctors.
This is a recommended list of actions that are necessary if we are going to insure that the million B.C. residents without a doctor are going to get the basic level of medical services that a modern health-care system delivers in other first-world countries.
1. Drop the barriers for Canadians to practising medicine when they have obtained their medical education and training in other countries. This starts with the creation of a list of those countries where medical education is equal to the best medical education provided in Canada. If a doctor is licensed to practise medicine in any of the U.S.A. states and has received a medical degree from an accredited school of medicine, completed a recognized internship and/or specialty training, then that person should automatically be given a licence to practise in British Columbia.
2. Provide moving expenses to doctors for relocation to B.C. with the condition of multi-year B.C. residency and medical practice as the repayment for the moving expenses.
3. The B.C. government recruitment program is very fragmented and poorly implemented. Sophisticated, modern-day family doctor and nursing recruitment programs must be quickly implemented.
4. End the multi-year delay in approving the Ministry of Health’s Community Health Centre Plan, thereby enabling communities to create non-profit community health centres. Provide implementation funding to communities. The province should provide operational funding for family doctors/primary care providers through one of its medical service payment programs.
5. Rapidly approve all the pending applications for primary care networks and assist with funding their implementation.
6. Instead of increasing the doctor shortage by pulling family doctors out of their outpatient offices, it is time for Island Health to hire emergency/urgent care medical staff for the new emergency department being built with community funds at Lady Minto Hospital.
7. Island Health operates six Victoria area and one Nanaimo urgent care/primary care centre. They are plagued with staffing and administrative problems. They must convert to primary care centres with the family doctors carrying a full caseload of patients. Currently urgent care is offered at Lady Minto Hospital and it rightly belongs at each emergency medical location.
8. Facilitate group medical practices that demonstrate economies of scale. These will be attractive to new family doctors who do not have the resources or the desire to establish or purchase a private practice.
9. Fund housing for new family doctors and nurse practitioners where housing is either unavailable or unaffordable for the newly graduated.
10. Nurses and nurse practitioners take a huge burden off current family doctors, allowing them to spend more time with patients. Doctors must integrate nurses into their practices. The province must fiscally support nurses in all multi-doctor office settings.
11. Expand the medical and nursing education programs in the province to meet the current and future needs based on population criteria.
12. Laboratory and radiology services are not meeting current needs and therefore family and specialist doctors are not able to do their work in a timely fashion, which has physical and mental impacts on the health-care system. The ministry must quickly fund and staff laboratory/radiology programs in accordance with population needs.
13. It is long overdue that the Ministry of Health releases a health-care crisis resolution plan to its citizens. Secrecy is a deterrent and fails to recognize that we pay for our health-care services through our taxes.
The writer is a Salt Spring Island health-care advocate.