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Doctor waitlist effectiveness has faded, says Kamloops MLA

While the Ministry of Health will not reveal how many people are waiting for a physician, the number was just shy of 11,500 in the Kamloops area as of last fall
family doctor female

Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Peter Milobar said a waitlist system utilized by the province to connect residents with family doctors and nurse practitioners was helpful when it was started by the provincial government in 2016.

However, Milobar added, the waitlist system has since become a source of frustration.

The waitlist is maintained through HealthLinkBC under the Ministry of Health.

KTW spoke to Milobar after hearing from a resident who has been on the waitlist for four years and who has ran into roadblocks when seeking to find out where they stood in the queue and when they might come off of the list.

KTW contacted the Ministry of Health for information and faced similar hurdles, with the ministry refusing to answer questions, such as how many people are on the waitlist in Kamloops and across B.C.

Milobar said the waitlist system when first implemented allowed people without family doctors to feel like they were in a process in which they would progress through. He said significant placements occurred.

“Lately, it seems to be more a source of frustration than anything,” Milobar said. “It seems to have changed, where now people aren’t sure where they stand on things. You know, what their timelines might look like. Is it even feasible that they’re ever going to get a placement or not? It definitely is having its challenges.”

Milobar said it is increasingly difficult to get updated and relevant health-care information in British Columbia, which he attributes to a “ratcheting down” of access to information. He said it exacerbates anxiety about the health-care system when people are left in the dark.

Milobar said he doesn’t see the harm in letting someone know where they are in a queue for a family doctor and what it would roughly mean in terms of time frames. He said such information is typical of any service provider.

“You even get that when you get put on hold with Air Canada,” he said. “They even tell you how long it’s going to be until they answer your phone call. It just seems strange that it’s not got more transparency to it.”

Milobar said what the government is doing to improve the family physician shortage in B.C. is not working. He pointed to University of British Columbia graduates who were offered student loan forgiveness and other incentives, but did not take the offer. He said it speaks to a “big and worrisome systemic issue.”

The Thompson Region Division of Family Practice represents primary care providers locally. Its work includes recruiting and retaining doctors.

Executive director Tim Shoults said the division is not responsible for managing the waitlist, but noted it does receive updates from HealthLink BC. In turn, the division refers new doctors to HealthLink BC when building up new patient lists.

The most recent update it received on the waitlist is from September 2021, nearly a year ago, which showed almost 11,500 people actively searching for a doctor in Kamloops, Barriere, Logan Lake, Sun Peaks and North Shuswap.

The division is working with the Royal Inland Hospital Foundation and the City of Kamloops on new municipal incentives to attract doctors to the city, with more information expected in the fall.

In addition, Shoults said, the division is working with the business community to “pull out all the stops” in a tailored approach to attract doctors, taking them to restaurants, golf courses and more. A similar recruitment method is utilized by the RIH Foundation to attract specialists and hospitalists.

“We’re trying to take a page from that book for family practitioners, as well,” Shoults said.

A new general practitioner came to Kamloops earlier this month.