Comment: Doctor shortage should not become accepted way of life

I am a 67 year old complex-care patient in Victoria with a range of medical conditions that can be life threatening or life shortening if not monitored and treated consistently.

I have just been informed that my family doctor will be retiring next month.

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I was aware that there is a shortage of family doctors in Victoria but I was unaware of the severity of that crisis.

I’m reading articles that go back 15 years describing a critical shortage of general practitioners and predicting a continuous worsening of the situation as baby-boomer family doctors retire en masse without younger replacements.

This issue has been studied to death.

The problems and obstacles that have created this crisis are well understood and solutions that could dramatically alleviate the situation do not rise to the level of brain surgery in their complexity.

It is clear that additional subsidies and incentives are required to draw younger medical graduates into general practice in high-cost urban centres like Victoria.

Yes, offloading some responsibilities to highly trained registered nurses, using a team approach to care and reducing overhead costs through the use of shared facilities are useful initiatives.

But until the comparative financial outlook for general practice in expensive urban areas becomes more competitive, the problem will only become more severe.

We are facing an enormous cohort of elderly baby boomers with complex medical issues who are losing their baby-boomer family doctors. This is happening just at the time when they are most vulnerable to health problems

The Ministry of Health, Island Health and all of the relevant medical associations have no useful suggestions.

They typically offer sympathy and agreement that our health care system is broken. Searching for a new doctor has devolved into a bizarre Easter egg hunt where elderly patients scramble around searching endlessly until they hear of a doctor who is taking patients. They then have to pounce before that doctor is swarmed by the other desperate people competing for the same small handful of openings available.

I’m recognizing classic symptoms of “boiled frog” syndrome.

As the crisis heats up, we just sit in the pot croaking and accepting this outrageous situation as the new “normal.” This crisis demands drastic and immediate intervention.

From what I’m seeing, the provincial NDP government is studying, experimenting and tinkering around the edges. Experimenting and tinkering are absolutely insufficient. Elderly patients are at serious risk if they do not have access to medical care that can deal with complex conditions rather than immediate symptoms.

My retiring doctor informs me that there are some 30,000 people in Victoria alone who are currently searching for a family doctor!

This letter is a wake-up call, particularly to my fellow baby boomers whose age and complexity of medical conditions cannot be dealt with effectively by using walk-in clinics.

Time to stop being boiled slowly.

Jump out of the pot and get hopping mad. Under no circumstances should we accept this worsening crisis as the “new normal.”

Duncan McDonald is a baby boomer and concerned Victoria citizen.

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