‘We can afford to pay our staff’: B.C. family doctors welcome news of updated pay model

'We can afford to pay our staff': B.C. family doctors welcome news of updated pay model
Photo courtesy of CBC.

The B.C. government is announcing it has reached an agreement with Doctors of BC and BC Family Doctors to update the pay model for family doctors in the province.

Beginning in February 2023, the province will move away from the fee-for-service model that has been criticized by family doctors in the province.

Doctors say the model is part of the reason why the province, and Greater Victoria in particular, is facing a critical family physician shortage. Roughly 20 per cent of B.C. residents don’t have a family doctor, and physicians are instead choosing to work in hospitals and other settings where they are not responsible for their own overhead costs.

“Rising costs, pandemic-related pressures and staffing shortages required action for doctors on several fronts,” Horgan said in a statement.

The new model will pay doctors taking into account several factors including the amount of time spent with a patient, the number of patients seen in a day, the number of patients supported through the office, the complexity of issues, and administrative costs.

Adrian Dix, B.C.’s minister of health, says the province has been working since January to strengthen the health care system.

“And the actions we’ve been taking, including the new payment model, come from working so closely with Doctors of BC and BC Family Doctors to find solutions that strengthen our health-care system, that renew its essential function, and that build on our support for doctors and the patients who count on them,” Dix said.

“Today is about commitment, action, and collaboration, and all they make possible in our health care system.”

This agreement comes at the same time the province and Doctors of BC have reached a tentative physician master agreement, which is a three-year tentative agreement has pieces that, the province says, achieves key priorities that improve health care including gender equity, Indigenous reconciliation and workplace safety, as well as addressing work completed after regular hours.

Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh, president of Doctors of BC, says these two pieces will make a real difference to improve health care in the province.

“Over the last months, the provincial government has listened to the voices of physicians who passionately care about our patients. The new physician master agreement, which must be ratified by B.C.’s doctors, recognizes the value of the work doctors do every day,” Dosanjh said.

“The new payment model option for family doctors is unique in Canada, bringing together the best of a range of payment methods. The goal is to not only stabilize longitudinal family practice, but to also make it sustainable and rewarding. Everyone deserves a family doctor, and this new option is a major step toward making that goal a reality.”

The province estimates, if ratified, the new physician master agreement will have a total incremental cost of $708 million by the end of the third year.

But it’s a cost that will have a significant effect on the ongoing doctor shortage, says Saanich-based family physician Dr. Jennifer Lush.

“We have heard much over the last few months about the increasing cost business costs of running a family practice, so now that we have this increased compensation, we can afford to pay our staff and pay our overhead and continue to see our patients,” she said.

Lush believes the new model won’t just attract new doctors, it is already enticing current doctors to stay in B.C.

“Doctors that were really coming down to the wire making a decision whether they had to close their practice in the next couple of months, they now see they can stay open, they can continue caring for patients.”

Family doctors will be able to opt-in to the new payment model, but Doctors of BC believes most will.

The organization cautions that, while significant, the new compensation model is just a start and there is still much work to be done to fully address B.C.’s health-care crisis.

The province says over the summer and early fall, it has recruited 68 new family doctors in the province and is in progress to recruit another 67.

It has also announced 88 new residency seats at UBC.

With files from CHEK’s April Lawrence. Watch the B.C. government’s news conference below:

Laura BroughamLaura Brougham

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