The fight to bring family doctors to Kamloops continues

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Venture Kamloops managing director Jim Anderson calls the city’s recruitment of general practitioners a “struggle.”

An estimated 900,000 British Columbians do not have a family doctor.

Anderson appeared before Kamloops City Council last week, noting that Venture Kamloops helps doctors start their own practice, which operates like a business.

Anderson said he chairs a committee in conjunction with the Thompson Area Division of Family Medicine that focuses on finding doctors for people without a family doctor.

Anderson said the problem is that every other community in British Columbia is also short of doctors.

“The circumstance is that we’re a small community outside of the Lower Mainland, but we’re not small enough to qualify for the incentives that exist for GPs to go to even smaller communities,” Anderson said. “So we are fighting with the big ones without the tools of the little ones. This is a difficult line to hoe.

The problem of recruitment was highlighted by Dr Grant Del Begio in a recent letter to the editor of KTWin which the family doctor of nearly 30 years said he was worried about patients in Kamloops because he and other family doctors were nearing retirement.

“Many, in fact, have already retired and haven’t been able to find a replacement,” Del Begio said. “Our office receives numerous ‘Can you be our doctor’ requests every week, which we unfortunately cannot respond to. Although I have very much enjoyed family medicine as a career, the truth is that it is very difficult and underfunded. Something has to change.

Del Begio noted that family physicians are more than health care providers; they are small business owners who run their own clinics and need help with providing care, staff salaries, rental costs and supplies.

“We also need to modernize the way we fund and operate clinics, so family doctors can spend more time with patients,” Del Begio said, noting that the growing amount of paperwork for family doctors is making it difficult to provide patient care.

Besides the problem of recruiting doctors, Anderson also told the board that many people who were employees before the pandemic have chosen to open their own businesses, especially those in the trades or those with expertise in a field.

Anderson said that’s a contributing factor to a general labor shortage.

Anderson was asked if social issues in Kamloops are causing red flags for businesses. He said it hadn’t been a problem and the only closures he heard about were those he heard about in the papers.

Recently, McDonald’s closed its downtown location, with the main reason attributed to vandalism and staff safety concerns amid ongoing street issues.

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