Doctors and the provincial government have taken another needed step in the constant struggle to find physicians for rural communities, including four on the Island. The new incentive, called Rural Physicians for British Columbia, promises $100,000 for family doctors and specialists who agree to practise in one of 17 communities for three years.
The shortage of doctors familiar to thousands of British Columbians is even more acute in rural areas.
One measure of the extent of the problem is the number of programs the provincial government aims at finding and keeping doctors in rural areas. The blizzard of acronyms includes RRP, NITAOP, RGPLP and RGPALP.
They offer extra payments to doctors who maintain practices in designated communities, travel funding for doctors who visit rural communities, money to maintain emergency-department services, isolation allowances, and help in finding locums for general practitioners, anesthesiologists and specialists.
The new initiative will give doctors $50,000 up front to open a practice, with an additional $50,000 after their first year. If they don’t stay the full three years, they have to pay it all back. In the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the list of vacancies includes one emergency physician for Port Alberni, two GPs for Port Hardy, one GP for Tofino and one GP for Galiano Island.
While the plan gives hope to residents, the government and the B.C. Medical Association know it is not a long-term solution. Getting doctors is one thing; keeping them is another. A proposal is on the drawing board to search for new ways of paying doctors and funding health care in rural areas. It would look intensively at a few communities.
For now, the $1.7 million for the incentives is a small price to pay to help communities desperate for doctors.
© Copyright 2013