A local doctor is closing his practice, but he isn’t leaving Kamloops or the medical field behind.
Dr. Hancke de Kock, a family physician who has served Kamloops for more than a decade, will close his practice on June 30, leaving some 2,000 people without a doctor.
The closure comes as de Kock has decided to enter addictions medicine as it is an area of interest he specializes in and facing as much need and challenges as B.C.’s doctor shortage, he told KTW.
“For me, it’s like I’m going from one crisis to the next crisis,” de Kock said. “Family medicine is in crisis, addiction medicine is in crisis, the overdose emergency is in crisis.”
De Kock said he is joining the virtual addictions medicine clinic that will see him based in Kamloops as part of Interior Health’s new outpatient withdrawal management services, which were announced earlier this month. The new job will see the physician take appointments over his computer from home.
“It’s where my career was going,” he said, noting the ongoing opioid crisis that has been worsening in B.C. “I think it’s time I spent more time and energy on this to see if I can make more of a difference than just doing it part-time.”
On April 12, IH announced the new virtual addictions services for Kamloops, Penticton, Vernon and Kelowna, which are expected to begin in the summer.
De Kock, however, has other medical roles in the community of which he will still be a part. He remains a member of the assessment and evaluation team in Kamloops for UBC’s family practice residency program, which trains new doctors to open practices, and will continue working in family medicine at Royal Inland Hospital.
De Kock said his patients will be placed on a waiting list for a new doctor as there are none accepting patients, but he noted there are about 12 vacancies for family doctors in the city. Other patient options are the Urgent Primary Care Centre at Royal Inland Hospital or virtual care like Telehealth.
According to a joint Venture Kamloops-Thompson Region Division of Family Practice committee, an estimated 900,000 British Columbians don’t have a family doctor.
De Kock said being a family doctor is challenging and he felt a “big learning curve” when he began practising — first in Hope in 2008 and in Kamloops since 2009. He feels new medical school graduates today find it difficult and intimidating to open a practice, so instead they continue to work as locums (fill-in doctors where needed).
“We’re in this vicious cycle at the moment,” de Kock said.
He said being a family physician means doctors having to run businesses — something he thinks students aren’t prepared for when training in medical school.
“You have to employ staff, you have to cover your expenses, you have to run a business and you need to make sure you make a profit at the end of the day,” he said. “I don’t think people know how to do that and that’s why people aren’t opening offices.”
One way he believes the problem could be addressed is to allow doctors to simply focus on medicine at their practices and have the business management side of it operated by another party, such as the government or an organization.
“I think it will be easier,” he said.