EDITORIAL – The arithmetic of local doctor shortage is shocking

NDP leader John Horgan.

An ArmchairMayor editorial by Mel Rothenburger.

THE NEW DEMOCRATS are stepping up their press-release production and may eventually rival the incumbent government if they keep it up. The party has kicked into high gear, now churning out several a day.

Of those posted on Wednesday (April 5, 2017), one was particularly interesting, Headlined “Christy Clark’s legacy is clear: 16 years of neglect in health care,” it quoted NDP leader John Horgan as characterizing the Liberal record on health care as “hallway medicine, long waits for treatment and declining patient care.”

One of the backgrounder bullet points in the release said this:

“200,000 British Columbians still don’t have a family doctor. After Christy Clark promised that everyone would have a family doctor by 2015, she gave up trying and abandoned the idea. In Kamloops, one in three people don’t have a doctor.”

That’s worth examining. While the exact number of people in Kamloops without a family doctor isn’t known, one of the numbers commonly used is 30,000, so Horgan might not be far off in saying one in three are without.

Media stories about the B.C.-wide number are often vague, resorting to terms like “many” without specifics. But two years ago, Global News reported there were an estimated 350,000 British Columbians without a family doctor.

In January 2016, Green Party leader Andrew Weaver quoted Statistics Canada as estimating “over” 200,000 people in B.C. actively looking for a family doctor.

So, let’s go with the 200,000 number for a moment. And let’s use 30,000 as the number for Kamloops. That would mean that 15 per cent of the total number of people in the province who don’t have a GP live in Kamloops. That’s shocking.

Horgan didn’t use that percentage in his press release, but he did offer some other interesting claims. For example, he says 91 per cent of care homes aren’t meeting minimum standards for care, diagnostics like MRIs can take up to 30 months, and 60 per cent of patients in the Fraser Health region are waiting more than 10 hours to be admitted to hospital.

But back to the lack of doctors in Kamloops. When a single city of 90,000 has 15 per cent of the problem in a provincial population of more than 4.5 million, it deserves more than a couple of new clinics; it demands a full-blown investigation.

About Mel Rothenburger (9367 Articles) is a forum about Kamloops and the world. It has more than one million views. Mel Rothenburger is the former Editor of The Daily News in Kamloops, B.C. (retiring in 2012), and past mayor of Kamloops (1999-2005). At he is the publisher, editor, news editor, city editor, reporter, webmaster, and just about anything else you can think of. He is grateful for the contributions of several local columnists. This blog doesn't require a subscription but gratefully accepts donations to help defray costs.

8 Comments on EDITORIAL – The arithmetic of local doctor shortage is shocking

  1. Claims of a ‘healthy economy’ are a complete joke when so many of BC’s citizens are forced to line up early in the morning for healthcare. Not much different to refugees lining up for food in a camp except that they at least have the excuse of… well… ‘war’… and ‘no economy to speak of’. Here we have politicians claiming a healthy economy, which is really just double-speak for ‘the corporations are making healthy profits’. The trickle-down doesn’t seem to be trickling down very far.

    Our provincial politicians need to have the difference between ‘healthy profits’ and ‘health people’ explained to them. Because a ‘healthy economy’ can’t come at the expense of ‘quality of life’. There must be balance, otherwise, what’s the point in getting up every morning?

  2. Please stop trying to use Ajax as a pawn in this. We have had doctor shortages in this city for a long time, and Ajax has nothing to do with it. Its time we the people started becoming the focal point of our government rather than big business and large corporations. We need a government for the people by the people…time to change our political diapers in BC.

  3. Cynthia Ross Friedman // April 6, 2017 at 11:38 AM // Reply

    Excellent article and insightful comments, too.

    What does it really mean to say that BC has a “healthy economy” when so many people don’t have health care? Where is all that there darn “economy” going? Something does not compute…

  4. A full blown investigation?
    Don’t be so boisterous Mel…it means questioning the health minister for which, just last week, you had immense praise for.

    • Mel Rothenburger // April 6, 2017 at 6:51 AM // Reply

      I stand by my comments about Terry Lake, who has faced tremendous challenges including the one I just wrote about in this editorial.

      • Well, the Ajax thing is surely not helping.
        But again, all these challenges, conjectures et al are going back to matter of governance.
        Is the string of announcements of late the result of good governing or akin to wave a carrot right under the horse’s nose?
        A well governed realm is the one with utter coordination among its ministries, not the one plugging holes in a leaking dike, sort of speak.

      • O’come on Mel, you are old enough to remember Flying Phil, as Transportation Minister he delivery the very best highway/road system to his home riding of Kamloops, and it still stands the test of time 30 plus years later. Then you have this guy Lake, yes he appeared to work hard and was in a difficult position with his partners in Victoria, but let’s face it, he DID NOT DELIVER.
        Reading your article on the numbers for Kamloops, it really does warrant an open public enquiry by an independent commission and the sooner the better.
        City government has largely sat on their collective hands during this mess under the leadership of Milobar, come on people, do you really want to elect him to Provincial gov’t to represent the Northshore and area, shake your heads if you do!

  5. John Paul Winston // April 6, 2017 at 4:23 AM // Reply

    BC Liberals – including Peter Milobar – don’t want to discuss or admit that you can’t recruit doctors to a community where the current resident doctors are talking about leaving due to the mine opening up. Before choosing a place to relocate, docs talk to other docs. They make their decisions based on lots of factors, and one of the main one is consideration for their family’s health and well-being – which includes schools, shopping, crime, recreation and yes, environmental health factors. Kamloops does pretty well on some of these, but even without the mine really sucks on the last one. Recruitment will be tough until that issue is removed.

    The other factor docs consider is how much their practise and workload is made easier or worse by hospital facilities and bureaucracy. Another issue with a failing grade for BC in general and Kamloops in particular.

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