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Doctor recruitment a high priority with health authority

Interior Health Chief Executive Officer Chris Mazurkewich was in Penticton discussing doctor shortages in the Interior Health region recently.
July 15, 2016 - 8:30 AM

PENTICTON - Interior Health continues to recognize the need for more doctors throughout its jurisdiction, says the organization's top staffer.

Interior Health Chief Executive Officer Chris Mazurkewich says doctor recruitment is a top priority of the health authority, noting more and more patients in the health care system don’t have a family physician, with many on waiting lists for a family doctor.

He’s quick to point out there are good things happening in some areas, however. Interior Health has been successful in the last three years attracting specialists and family physicians to some areas.

“Last year was the most successful ever in attracting medical health practitioners to the Interior Health area. A lot of work goes into it,” Mazurkewich says.

The completion of Penticton’s new hospital care tower will provide an added enhancement to recruitment locally, he adds, noting a new expanded medical training facility will also expose young doctors to what Penticton has to offer, and entice them to come back to the city to practice.

Similar sentiments were noted in Kamloops earlier this year. The Thompson region had a wait list of 3,000 people looking for a doctor this past February.

“Penticton is doing well compared to other communities. From my perspective, we’re making progress, but the reality is, with our aging population, we can’t keep up with the changes,” he adds, noting the large number of seniors in the Interior Health region is matched by an equally large number of doctors who are reaching the retirement age.

“We have more people over 65 in this region than we have teenagers. We need to change how we deliver services by working smarter and by working together to benefit our communities. It’s not an option,” Mazurkewich says, noting future scenarios may involve a nurse practitioner substituting for a family doctor in some cases.

According to Interior Health Communications Officer Tara Gostelow, the health agency has recruited seven family practitioners to Penticton Regional Hospital so far this year, in addition to a general surgeon, a neurologist, a general internal medicine specialist, two general psychiatry doctors, a pathologist and a radiologist.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. says one general practitioner in Penticton is currently accepting patients out of 70 physicians who list a Penticton address as their primary business location.

The college says 709 general practitioners list a primary business address in the Thompson-Okanagan district as of February 29, 2016.

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