Kamloops family still hoping for family doctor after eight years | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Kamloops family still hoping for family doctor after eight years

Image Credit: WIKIMEDIA COMMONS/ Bart Everson

A shortage of doctors is a growing problem throughout the province and is now reaching crisis proportions, with one million B.C. residents without a family physician.

Some residents in the Thompson Okanagan have been on a waiting list for a family doctor for many years and are either accessing treatment through an overextended hospital emergency department – often a long, tedious process – or simply not getting important treatments and checkups done.

Kamloops resident Jenn Riehl has been on a wait list for eight years since moving up from the coast and all three members of her family are currently without a physician, something she worries about.

“In my job I need a limited physical done every two years and I go to the same doctor as everyone else for that,” she said. “It is pretty much just an eye exam and paperwork. That is the only medical care I receive.”

READ MORE: Nearly 50,000 sign petition pleading for more family doctors in B.C.

Riehl said she had many different medical options when she was living on the coast. She hung onto her doctor for the first year after her move until unfortunately her doctor retired, leaving her without a professional she feels comfortable with. Her medical history is still on the coast.

“I have gone through menopause without even getting to talk to a doctor,” she said. “I have physical signs that I need testing but I don’t want some person who I may or may not see again be this intimately invasive. My retired doctor used to do blood work for me every year that I haven’t had done for seven years now.”

It's a position many people find themselves in with little hope on the horizon.

“Family medicine is in a state of crisis,” said David May, president of the B.C. College of Family Physicians in a recent media release. “Family doctors are leaving their practices and new doctors aren’t entering comprehensive family medicine. For British Columbians to have access to the care they need and deserve, we need a plan that supports and invests in family doctors.”

Forty percent of people who have a family doctor are concerned they will lose theirs because of retirement or practice closure, according to the college.

Riehl said it is a big concern for her that her kids have not had access to a family doctor for so many years.  

She said in the summer she will go to the coast and access a walk-in clinic.

In Kamloops there is no walk-in clinic. People without family doctors, or those without an appointment with minor emergencies, are forced to visit the Urgent and Primary Care Centre or the emergency department at Royal Inland Hospital.

Meanwhile, most Urgent and Primary Care Centres in the province, which are meant to make up for a shortage of walk-in clinics, are understaffed.

READ MORE: Kamloops woman among almost a million people in B.C. without a family doctor

“I have major health problems and have to go to urgent care at the hospital when I need a doctor,” said Kamloops resident Julie Fowler in a previous interview with iNFOnews. “I get up early and start phoning over and over, and no one answers. By 10:30 all the spots are filled. It is frustrating spending your whole day trying to get an appointment.”

Increasing the pay rate for family doctors and creating more attractive group practices are a couple of solutions the immediate past-president of the B.C. College of Family Physicians suggested in a previous interview with iNFOnews.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Shannon Ainslie or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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