Facing a family doctor shortage that shows no signs of ending, the B.C. government has announced $118 million in stabilization funding to help ailing practices stay afloat.
Health Minister Adrian Dix, who was joined by Doctors of BC president Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh, says the funding will help ensure patients have ongoing access to primary care.
“You’ll see in the coming days and weeks many other steps to increase access to both the number of primary care providers…but this is a necessary first step. It reflects the dozens and dozens of hours we’ve been working with Doctors of BC,” said Dix.
“It’s fair to say that our primary care system, which developed over a long period of time, that model no longer meets the needs of patients or doctors, so this is a demonstration of tangible action right now that brings immediate relief to family practices, and that’s good news for patients and for doctors.”
It sounds like this money will be roughly $25,000 per doctor and is simply a direct payment to them, which they can spend as they see fit. Some might go to overhead, some might go to their salaries, it will be up to them.
That's what I take from @adriandix's answer on issue.
— Rob Shaw (@RobShaw_BC) August 24, 2022
The funding amounts to about $27,000 per qualifying physician, Dix said, and addresses the ongoing issue of overhead costs in the interim while the government and Doctors of BC construct a new compensation model that will be revealed this fall.
Of the $118-million fund, $75 million will come from the Ministry of Health and $43 million will come from the General Practices Services Committee, a group co-chaired by the ministry and Doctors of BC.
The funding period will last from Oct. 1, 2022 to Jan. 31, 2023 and will help family physicians and primary care clinics, including walk-in clinics, help pay for their overhead costs.
BC is announcing $118 million in "stabilization" funding to family doctors, who agree to keep clinics open and see patients. 70% of family doctors expected to be eligible.
Funding will flow for 4 months (Oct-Jan).
— Rob Shaw (@RobShaw_BC) August 24, 2022
Dosanjh called the fund an “interim solution to help stop the bleeding” felt by family doctors and clinics untli a longer-term solution is reached.
“Our family doctors are finding it more and more difficult as the increasing costs, the rising costs of businesses, and we know most family doctors, in their clinic the operational cost is between 30 to 40 per cent and sometimes higher,” she said.
The province says around 3,480 family physicians in the province have their own practices, while 1,110 work in walk-in clinics, and all will be eligible for funding.
Doctor groups have called on the province for supports to help family doctors cover their overhead costs, like hiring administrative staff, leasing space and maintaining electronic records systems, a suggestion that was echoed earlier this month by hopeful BC NDP leader David Eby.
BC Liberal Leader Kevin Falcon told media following the news conference that it a “partial, timid” step toward solving the crisis.
“It’s a very expensive short-term band-aid that is only dealing with one of the wounds. The patient, if I could use a metaphor, is bleeding all over, and putting a band-aid over just one portion of the patient is not going to deal with the challenge,” he said.
“What we have to do is have a holistic series of bold responses that can start the retention of doctors so they stop fleeing family practice and begin to attract new doctors into the practice. That’s not going to happen until we see more boldness in government.”
In a statement, BC Green Party Leader Sonia Furstenau said the new fund was a good step toward addressing the shortage, but that change is coming too slowly.
“We called for funding to support overhead relief earlier this year, what has taken so long? Far more needs to be done to stop clinics closing, and to ensure people have access to a primary care provider,” said Furstenau.
Adam Olsen, Green Party MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, said many clinics have shut down in recent months as the crisis got worse.
“Doctors in my riding have raised this with me for years now, I’ve shared their concerns with the Ministry of Health. Their lack of action up until now has cost people their family doctor and access to primary healthcare,” he said.
Nearly one-million people in British Columbia do not have access to a family doctor out of a province of just over five million, according to the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons.
The province also sees some of the longest walk-in clinic wait times in Canada, with Victoria experiencing the longest waits in the country at more than two-and-a-half hours on average, according to Medimap.
Watch the full news conference below: