Doctor shortage not a short-term fix

By Doug Collins
October 26, 2016 - 6:49am Updated: October 26, 2016 - 11:03am

KAMLOOPS — The incoming chair of the Interior Health Board of Directors says the doctor shortage in Kamloops is a long term problem that has no short term fix.

Interior Health announced John O'Fee will take over from the outgoing Erwin Malzer on January 1.

O'Fee says training doctors here, as is happening with the UBC Medical School education site at Royal Inland Hospital, may be part of the solution.

" We have no problems attracting lawyers to Kamloops now, " says O'Fee. "Certainly we have an oversupply because of the law school here. So having the ability to do a year of training here and having people come here to finish their medical qualifications and spend a year here is a fantastic way to increase the number of doctors in the region."

O'Fee adds "the traditional model of the doctor owning a clinic, let's say, and having their staff and running the business is still valid, and some doctors still want that." But, he says "a lot of practitioners, especially younger practitioners are looking more for a turnkey model where the government provides the facility, and they simply come in on a fee arrangement and provide medical services there."

O'Fee says it will take creative solutions, not just throwing money at the problem, to solve the shortage of general practitioners, and authorities like Interior Health need to be ready to adapt. He says general practitioners shouldn't be relied on for routine procedures such as blood pressure checks, something that nurses and nurse practitioners can do. 

It's estimated up to 30-thousand Kamloops residents do not have a family doctor.

O'Fee says the problem is not lost on him, as his wife and children have recently seen their doctor's practice close, meaning they are forced to rely on walk-in clinics when they have medical questions.

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