Hundreds gather at B.C. Legislature calling for action on doctor shortage

WatchBC Health Care Matters held its second rally calling for better access to family doctors ahead of David Eby becoming the province's next premier. Oli Herrera reports.

Over a hundred people demonstrated at the B.C. Legislative Assembly Saturday afternoon as part of a health care rally, calling on the provincial government to improve public access to family doctors.

BC Health Care Matters, a grassroots organization, hosted its second rally. Along with speeches, a handful of doctors pitched tents and heard stories from people who have struggled finding a family physician.

“I am angry that the government of B.C. barely acknowledges the pain and suffering of the people that I hear of every day,” said Camille Currie, President of BC Health Care Matters.

A report from the B.C. College of Physicians in Surgeons found that nearly one-million British Columbians don’t have access to a family doctor. Another report released earlier this year found that Victoria had the longest average wait times for walk-in clinics in the country back in 2021.

At a press conference on Friday, premiere-elect David Eby spoke his goals during his first 100 days in office. When it came to the doctor shortage, Eby said his goal is to help close the barrier to accepting foreign credentials from medical professionals.

“There is no reason why someone with the skills of a surgeon should be doing maintenance at the local high school,” said Eby.

Currie says the initiative is a strong move, but tackling the shortage can’t be solved by only recruiting physicians.

“We need to fortify our base structure of the family physician role. So that means what they get paid, what they’re compensated, how they’re respected,” said the President.

Earlier this year, health minister Adrian Dix announced a $118 million stabilization fund, equating to around $25,000 in payments directly to qualifying physicians. The funding period began on Oct. 1, 2022, and lasts through Jan. 31, 2023.

“It doesn’t matter how many foreign-trained doctors we bring in if we don’t have a system that is stable and functional, we might just lose them to other provinces,” said Currie.

Dr. Jennifer Lush, a Victoria-based family doctor spoke at the rally. When she first began practicing medicine 20 years ago, she and other colleagues saw a crisis beginning in healthcare, and eventually saw many of her colleagues moving provinces or leaving the field altogether due to burnout.

“We are losing family physicians every day to our neighbours next door and we really need to turn that around,” said Lush.

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Ruth Waldizk, above, says she doesn’t have a family and is worried that if something happens to her, there will be no one around to care for her chickens. (CHEK News)


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