Days of the family doctor may be coming to an end

Armchair Mayor
By Mel Rothenburger
January 17, 2018 - 6:14am Updated: January 17, 2018 - 3:56pm

KAMLOOPS — According to a report from the Canadian Medical Association last month, 15 per cent of British Columbians still don’t have family doctors. If past estimates can be believed, it’s double that in Kamloops.

The report said the general shortage will get worse, not better, because a lot of doctors are approaching retirement age.

I’m becoming convinced that the days of the family doctor are numbered. I hear from more and more people who are genuinely excited about the kind of care they’re getting from nurse practitioners.

Until recently, nurse practitioners weren’t on the scene at all and when they did start getting recognized as an alternative to GPs they were regarded as second best. That’s changing.

Nurse practitioners can do most of what a GP can do: diagnose and manage disease and illness, write prescriptions and order tests, and refer patients to specialists when needed.

Let’s face it, having a GP isn’t what it used to be. Family doctors don’t do house calls anymore and it takes too long to get an appointment, which is then often perfunctory. More and more medical students want to specialize; they want work-life balance.

Fair enough.

I have yet to talk to anyone who is anything but extremely pleased with the care provided by nurse practitioners. They speak highly of the prompt, compassionate, unrushed, team-based personal service they get.

Just like we used to get from doctors.

I have a lot of respect for those who work in our imperfect healthcare system, including our overworked GPs. There continues to be an unacceptable shortage of primary healthcare providers, but filling that gap will rely less and less on doctors.

Nurse practitioners are a much cheaper way to do it, and they’re also proving they can provide at least a comparable, and maybe better, quality of care.

It looks more and more that nurse practitioners are just what the doctor ordered.

I’m Mel Rothenburger, the Armchair Mayor.