In the one year since B.C.’s new payment model for family doctors has been implemented, the Ministry of Health says hundreds of doctors have started practicing in the province, but there is still more work to be done.
Between December 2022 and 2023, the province saw 708 new family doctors start working in the province, and 60 new nurse practitioners. This represents a 16.5 per cent increase in family doctors (from 4,289 to 4,997 in the province) and 11.3 per cent increase in nurse practitioners (now up to 590).
In total, 4,000 family doctors have signed on to the new payment model.
Dr. Ahmer Karimuddin, president of Doctors of BC, says this represents a change in the right direction for family practices in the province.
“For the first time in a long time, as physicians and as stakeholders in this work, we’re actually feeling hopeful,” Karimuddin said in the news conference. “Feeling hopeful for our patients and we’re feeling hopeful for the future of family medicine.”
READ MORE FROM MARCH 2023: ‘Over the moon excited’: Doctors of BC optimistic over number of physicians signing up for new payment model
Additionally, the province says the expansion of the Health Connect Registry is now complete, which will help connect unattached patients to health providers. Up to Feb. 7, over 50,000 people have been attached to a family doctor through this program, with another 275,000 signed up and waiting to be attached, according to the ministry.
“Just over a year ago, BC was facing a crisis. Almost a million British Columbians were unable to access a family doctor when they needed one while scores of family doctors were leaving their practices, burnt out and frustrated,” Karimuddin said.
“Addressing this challenge, as we know is not an easy one. The underlying factors contributing to it were complex and solutions for most of these things unfortunately just take time. There’s still a lot of work to be done.”
Even prior to the new payment model, across Vancouver Island attachment to general practitioners has improved, according to data from the 2020/2021 fiscal year.
The BC Community Health Service Area Health Profiles published by the BC Centre for Disease Control shows that every community on Vancouver Island saw an increase in the number of patients connected to general practitioners between 2019 and 2021.
On Vancouver Island, the average number of patients connected to a general practitioner increased from 66 per cent in 2019 to 78.2 per cent in 2021.
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Port McNeill/Sointula has the lowest number of people connected to a general practitioner, with only 58.1 per cent of people in those communities having a GP, up from 54 per cent in 2019.
Downtown Victoria/Vic West has the second lowest, with 66.3 per cent of people having a general practitioner, up from 53 per cent in 2019. All other communities on Vancouver Island have a higher than 70 per cent connection to a general practitioner.
Qualicum Beach has the highest number of people connected to a general practitioner at 85.9 per cent, up from 81 per cent in 2019. Sidney comes in second at 84.1 per cent, up from 66 per cent in 2019.
Campbell River and Campbell River Rural saw the biggest increases in attachment between 2019 and 2021. Campbell River had a 24.7 per cent increase from 58 to 82.7 per cent, while Campbell River Rural increased 21.3 per cent, from 62 per cent to 83.3 per cent.