B.C.’s failed health-care experiment

Other provinces have opted for the team approach to solve the growing problem of patient access to doctors. Not in B.C. The team approach is not new. Roy Romanow recommended it in his 2002 report:

NorKam Medical Clinic (Google street view)

NorKam Medical Clinic (Google street view)

“in view of …changing trends, corresponding changes must be made in the way health care providers are educated and trained. If health care providers are expected to work together and share expertise in a team environment, it makes sense that their education and training should prepare them for this type of working arrangement.”

B.C. decided to keep doctors in their silos and try monetary reward.

B.C.’s experiment has failed, according to a report published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. The report’s authors, Kimberlyn McGrail and Ruth Lavergne, professors at UBC and Simon Fraser University, respectively, wrote of their results in the Globe and Mail (August 17, 2016). Taxpayers have paid $397 million on the plan without much to show for it. Here’s how it was supposed to work.

The plan, called the Complex Care Initiative, was negotiated between the government of B.C. and doctors a decade ago. It gave doctors who treated patients with complex health problems an extra $315 each year per patient.

The rational was that if doctors cared for patients who were really sick, rather than those with minor complaints, the rest would go to a walk-in clinic. Dr, Shelley Ross, co-chair of the General Practice Services Committee, says that a doctor’s time is sometimes taken up with minor complaints, sometimes more serious. It could be a runny nose and sore throat or it could be case of diabetes, stroke, high blood pressure, and memory loss.

“So you can see the difference,” said Dr. Ross, “It is basically a time issue, it is not a knowledge issue. It’s not that we don’t know what to do, it’s just a matter of being able to spend the time to do the quality of care (Globe and Mail, August 15, 2016).”

While doctors understandably want to direct more attention to those in dire need, more walk-in clinics haven’t happened.

The failure of planning for clinics has left patients out on the street. I know, because last year I was one of them. Last year when my doctor was on vacation and I had an eye infection, I only got into the clinic on Tranquille with great persistence and intervention from the pharmacist next door.

Kamloopsians are expressing their concerns on social media. On Tuesday of this week, Megs (‏@PirateMeghan) tweeted “The walk in clinic doesn’t open til 8am and I’m waiting in a line up of 28 people outside. The need for doctors in #Kamloops is intense.”

I’m lucky to have a doctor. Tens of thousands of Kamloopsians don’t according to former city councillor Nancy Bepple: “Which is why it is no surprise that studies have reported between 15,000 and 30,000 people in Kamloops don’t have a family doctor. That is, between one in three and one in six people don’t have a doctor.”

The B.C. Liberal plan has left us with a shortage of doctors, overcrowded clinics, and no improvement in health care. Some plan.

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