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Comment: The real reason for the shortage of doctors? Bureaucracy

There’s a culprit behind health-care shortages in B.C. Its name? Bureaucracy.
The onerous restrictions and demands placed on foreign-trained physicians are among the main reasons B.C. is having difficulty attracting medical professionals, Louise B. Andrew writes. TIMES COLONIST

There’s a culprit behind health-care shortages in B.C. Its name? Bureaucracy.

As a leader in organized medicine in the United States, I regularly defended Canadian medical care. At least Canadians do not have to fear bankruptcy when experiencing a medical emergency.

I later came to realize that this is essentially a lifebuoy, because so many B.C. residents (including many elders) have no access to effective preventive care.

As a double U.S. residency trained and board-certified physician and health law attorney with many years on the faculty at Johns Hopkins, I was effectively denied a medical licence by the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons after living in B.C. for several years and ­practising primarily as a lawyer, while maintaining all qualifications for U.S. medical licensure and ­practising medicine remotely.

My equally trained physician spouse was officially told that in order to qualify here, we would need to return to the U.S. and pursue yet another ­residency.

The children of my GP, both raised in Victoria but medically trained in another Commonwealth country, were (remarkably!) required by the College to pass an English proficiency exam in order to practise here. Why? Bureaucracy.

We have both known highly qualified older B.C. physicians (to whom we would entrust our lives) forced out of practice by this same culprit, being subjected to regular, expensive, intensive, intrusive reviews of patient records and practices by paid consulting ­examiners, despite being acknowledged experts and trainers in our highly specialized field of ­interventional pain management.

Such requirement, based solely on age, would constitute invidious age discrimination in the U.S.

Even young physicians with expertise in the critically underserved area of interventional (non-opioid-based) pain management (and no patient or College complaints) were forced to relinquish this aspect of their practice through institution of ominous environmental demands that far exceed what is required in other countries, all of course in the name of patient safety.

The online “public ­comment” by the bureaucracy ­apparently needed to justify the ­expensive and unnecessary ­requirements imposed upon these ­practitioners was so biased as to be risible. Now, there is to our knowledge only one such ­practitioner in Island Health.

Patients unable to obtain safe interventional approaches to chronic pain will often turn to illicit drug use, and we know well where that effect of this bureaucracy has led in B.C.

These are classic examples of administrative overreach and mission creep by an agency that regularly justifies its ­existence in this forum via virtuous ­declarations.

Meanwhile, each of these bureaucratic factors has directly contributed to the critical ­shortage of general medical as well as specialized physician care availability in B.C.

Although living here is ­wonderful (while it lasts), we may have earned our reputation of being the home of the “nearly dead.”