An editorial by Mel Rothenburger.
IF YOU’VE CALLED the primary care clinic recently, chances are you got a voicemail saying you shouldn’t expect to get an appointment with a nurse practitioner any time soon.
Touted only a couple of years ago as the answer to the shortage of family doctors, nurse practitioners are now, apparently, themselves in short supply.
There doesn’t seem to be a good answer to why that is, except that nurse practitioners like to move around and get experience in various places.
As for family doctors, the shortage there continues. More than 6,000 people are registered on the Interior 811 line that puts you in the queue for a GP. And that’s the ones who bother to get on the list.
A recent survey by the Division of Family Practice found that of those polled, 85 per cent of patients in this region were attached to a practitioner. Even if that’s true, it means several thousand are still looking. Remember that a couple of years ago, some estimates put the number as high as 30,000.
Patients still travel near and far to get in to see a doctor. There are now more Kamloops residents who drive to Sun Peaks to see a doctor than there are Sun Peaks residents accessing the health care centre there. There are stories of patients driving to the Okanagan and beyond to get appointments.
So what’s the answer? Well, first, we’ve got to know the cause of the shortage. For example, there seems to be no data on why the nurse practitioners’ roster is subject to churn. And, what are the real numbers on patients without a GP or NP?
That’s just a case of good old-fashioned research, and somebody’s got to do it.
Mel Rothenburger is a former mayor of Kamloops and newspaper editor. He publishes the ArmchairMayor.ca opinion website, and is a director on the Thompson-Nicola Regional District board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.