There are some hopeful signs in South Delta but MLA maintains more needs to be done
In the last two to three weeks, my office has been flooded with people searching for a new family doctor after learning their GP was retiring. Being set adrift without a doctor who is familiar with your medical history can be a harrowing experience, especially if you require regular medical visits or tests.
Retiring doctors commonly transfer their patients' medical records to a private storage company. That company then charges a fee to retrieve the records. Depending on the patient's needs, these fees can be upwards of $100. If someone is receiving income or disability assistance, they can contact the company to have the fee reduced to $25 (something which is not advertised). Everyone else is stuck with the higher bill.
This practice is simply unacceptable. It adds insult to injury for those who are urgently searching for a new doctor. If the government can't resolve the current GP shortage, then at a minimum it should cover the document-transfer fees of patients who lose their family doctor and have nowhere else to turn.
In 2010, the provincial government promised to "provide every British Columbian who wants a family doctor with one by 2015." It was an ambitious goal: at the time, an estimated 176,000 British Columbians were looking for a family physician. And last year, the minister of health said that number had climbed to nearly 210,000.
The GP shortage presents a real challenge for people in South Delta. According to the Ministry of Health, there may be over 2,000 people looking for a family doctor in our community. For the moment, they are out of luck. Each GP's practice serves 1,000 to 2,000 patients, so unless new family doctors replace those that retire, more people in South Delta will be looking for help.
Luckily, however, the Delta Division of Family Practice has worked hard to recruit new members and it appears we can expect new doctors to start arriving in town over the coming months. There will be a lag before everyone set adrift by a retiring physician is paired up with a new one, but at least there is hope on the horizon.
If you're looking for a family doctor in South Delta and want to be notified when one is taking patients, you can contact the Delta Division of Family Practice to be put on the list. Call 604-943-5591, email email@example.com or visit www.divisionsbc.ca/delta.
If you don't mind having your GP in North Delta, you can visit the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia's website at cpsbc.ca and search for doctors accepting new patients. My constituency office also has a list of doctors in North Delta who are presently taking patients.
The provincial government has done some good work trying to attract new doctors to the province. And so has the Delta Division of Family Practice worked hard to bring physicians to Delta. But when one retirement can leave over 1,000 patients with no doctor, it is clear there's still serious work to do.