Don’t hold your breath if you’re on new doctor wait list

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
November 7, 2016 - 11:05am Updated: November 14, 2016 - 11:06am

I’M IN. I’m on the list.

And I have absolutely no hope my name will be drawn any time soon in the get-a-doctor lottery.

I’m not going to get all negative about the new HealthLink BC wait list for those needing family doctors. It’s definitely a big improvement over the old GP For Me wait list operated by the Divisions of Family Practice.

That’s mostly because the latter was a sham. Not only was no attempt made to actually connect patients to doctors, but the list itself was an apparent fiction. When you (well, at least, I) phoned the GP for Me number, they knew almost nothing about the list or how to get on it, but if you were persistent, after a couple of tries they’d offer to take your name and maybe have someone get back to you.

If you go on the GP For Me page of the Division of Family Practice website today, you’ll note that the description of its objectives has been changed to the past tense.

“A GP for Me aimed to help more people get a family doctor, and better support vulnerable patients with complex health problems,” it says.

Doesn’t mention anything about results, because there were none.

In contrast, when you phone HealthLink BC (though I see no reference on its website to the new wait list, possibly because it’s limited to Kamloops and they don’t want to get everyone else in the province on the bandwagon) you receive a prompt and knowledgeable response.

I was on hold for less than a minute (during which I was informed my call would be recorded) before a live voice answered. When I said I wanted to get on the wait list, the first question was whether I live in Kamloops (I do have a Kamloops postal code).

Next, she asked if I was willing to share my information with a primary care provider. Then, my care card number, first and last name, date of birth, home address, postal code and phone numbers.

When I asked whether the other two members of the family had to make their own calls, I was told not at all, their information could be provided when a primary care practitioner gets back to me.

The whole thing took five minutes. Though some elevator music might be a good idea during the on-hold piece, it was efficient and easy.

Of course, there’s no timeline as to when I might get a return call. I could be number 30,000 on the list for all I know. And if the phone does ring, it might well be a nurse practitioner on the line rather than a GP.

Either way, I’m not holding my breath and I suggest you don’t either. A wait list suggests there’s somebody to wait for. The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. website includes a search function for doctors. You can go on there and search for doctors in Kamloops “accepting new patients.”

It will take a few seconds to churn out the answer: “Search returned no results.”

Because, of course, finding a doctor in Kamloops who’s accepting new patients is like discovering gold or winning the 649. I’ve heard of it happening, but — as the saying goes — it’s as rare as a good-hair day for Donald Trump.

Still, a wait list is a nice gesture, a few years too late but at least it shows recognition of the problem. Maybe it will serve to answer the big question of how many people in Kamloops are looking for a family doctor. It won’t show how many have given up, but at least it might give an idea of how many are hanging in there.

Meantime, I’m just pleased to be on somebody’s list.