Doctor shortage a provincial issue

For many communities having enough doctors continues to be a struggle and the impact is being felt by many Canadians.

For many communities having enough doctors continues to be a struggle and the impact is being felt by many Canadians.

Canadians have had it pretty good when it comes to health care, and reports continue to focus on how our public health care is becoming increasingly costly and overburdened. Whether the shortage of family doctors is a cause or a symptom is hard to tell.

Brenda Warren, a spokeswoman for Island Health’s physician recruitment and retention program, cites one reason behind the problem as cutback at medical schools in Canada in 1980s.

We can also look at family doctors and medical specialists being poached from other jurisdictions, usually in the U.S., with offers of significantly higher wages, bonuses and the lure of living in a major city.

The mid-Island is not only competing with Vancouver, Toronto or Montreal, but also Chicago, Miami and Seattle.

There is also the fact that provinces throughout Canada, including here in B.C., have done their best to lowball doctors whenever talks about pay and compensation come up.

The shortage of doctors in some parts of Canada, usually quite remote, is considered serious. Some areas have no family doctors and see challenges in staffing hospitals.

And while the mid-Island offers a great lifestyle, climate, recreation and much more that may draw more doctors, there is obviously more at play here.

After a shortage of medical graduates, many new doctors are also moving away from family practice, seeking specialization and wanting to remain in larger centres.

There is also a shift in the medical culture, documented several years ago, in which large number of new doctors are now women. Many are having families and are not about to engage in the old system in which work — with lots of grinding hours — comes first.

While Island Health does its best at recruitment, the province has to make sure health-care funding is adequate to support such efforts.

–Nanaimo Daily News