February 25, 2016 - 11:30 AM
KAMLOOPS - If you’re one of the thousands of people across the Thompson region hoping to find a family physician, a local doctor says he and his colleagues are aware of your frustrations and ask you hold out hope; more doctors could be on the way.
Dr. Chip Bantock is a local family practitioner and chair of the Thompson Region Division of Family Practice in Kamloops. He says doctors are all too familiar with the problems arising from the ongoing province-wide doctor shortage. To offset demands and ensure locals have access to a family physician, he says the area would need 15 more.
“Unfortunately we’ve had some physicians move away or have to retire. Had those people not had to retire, we would be ahead of the game,” he says. “It's a province-wide problem. Are we worse off? I don’t have the figures but I feel we are. That’s my personal sense when you’ve got thousands of patients without doctors. That’s significant."
Bantock says people ask him daily if he’s accepting new patients, and unfortunately for many doctors, their numbers have peaked.
“We don’t like saying no. We say no because of our own mental health and our own patient load to give the best care. If we could say yes to everyone that came through my door — and I get asked two or three times a day — we would say yes," he says. "We’re in this business to say yes if we could. I think the majority of us are caring people, but you learn to say no for your own sanity."
The Thompson region has a wait list with up to 3,000 names of people who want a family doctor, Bantock says.
He sees patients who used to live in Kamloops still retain him as their physician and travel from as far as Vancouver for a doctor’s visit. Packed walk-in clinics and emergency rooms also add to the issue.
While numbers reflect the severity of the problem, Bantock is optimistic change is coming. He notes many local doctors are helping medical students with practicums and hopes, with some encouragement, graduating students will return to the city and outlying areas to fill the medical void. He adds the first batch of 12 medical students with residencies in the Kamloops area will graduate this summer.
"I think our residency program is vital. I think we as a city need to open our arms... make them feel really welcome because you don’t want them to leave," he says. “If you’re a patient and you’re in hospital and you see a resident or a medical student, this is a part of your future so be gracious, be grateful. These are the people we need.
"It’s a slow process; it takes a while to train us to do the job properly. But we are looking much better than we were five years ago."
In an effort to curb the doctor shortage and improve on their business, two local pharmacies are installing equipment to provide patients a video chat service with a B.C. doctor, get a prescription and get it filled onsite.
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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2016