Concern over no docs in early hours
When Shelley Ross was a practising doctor, she knew one thing to be true — babies don’t check the clock to see what time it is when they decide to arrive into the world.
It’s one of the reasons why the president of the B.C. Medical Association (BCMA) is concerned about a plan by the Interior Health Authority to remove doctor availability between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m.
The decision doesn’t impact all medical provision, just service provided under the Medical On-Call Availability Program (MOCAP), a provincial plan designed to meet the needs of new or unassigned patients needing emergency care that is provided through an on-call rotation.
Kelly Murphy, IHA’s corporate director for medical affairs and clinical network, said the program pays doctors on-call even if their services aren’t required.
Removing that coverage for the two hours, a time-frame experience has shown to be the slowest, is one way to save money, Murphy said, and help ensure the susatinability of the program.
The program is being reviewed by the BCMA and the provincial government, but that study won’t be completed until the fall, Murphy said, and existing program contracts with doctors expire at the end of March.
Ross said her organization is asking its doctors in the IHA region to not sign new contracts until the change is thoroughly reviewed and discussed.
A letter sent to IHA doctors said the move “is a unilateral change on behalf of the IHA. Neither the BCMA nor the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues [which is reviewing MOCAP] was consulted in advance.”
Murphy said any doctor who has to treat a new or unassigned patient during the two-hour period will still be paid, but there will no longer be a blanket payment to doctors to simply be ready to answer the phone during that period.
That is an issue to which Ross takes particular exception, saying patients deserve round-the-clock care and the IHA is counting on doctors picking up the phone during that two-hour period, even though they won’t be paid to even listen for it to ring then.
Ross couldn’t speculate on how long it would take to review the change, noting she suspects it will have to be referred to the MOCAP-review committee.