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Struggle to bring family doctors to Kamloops continues

An estimated 900,000 British Columbians do not have a family physician
family doctor

Venture Kamloops executive director Jim Anderson calls recruitment of general practitioners to the city a “struggle.”

An estimated 900,000 British Columbians do not have a family physician.

Anderson appeared before Kamloops city council last week, noting Venture Kamloops helps physicians set up their own practice, which operate similar to a business.

Anderson said he chairs a committee in conjunction with the Thompson Region Division of Family Practice, which focuses on finding physicians for people without a family doctor.

Anderson said problematic is the fact every other community in British Columbia is also short of physicians.

“The circumstance is that we are a smaller community outside the Lower Mainland, but we’re not small enough that we qualify for incentives that exist for GPs to go to even smaller communities,” Anderson said. “So we’re fighting with the big boys without the tools of the small guys. It’s a tough row to hoe.”

The recruitment problem was highlighted by Dr. Grant Del Begio in a recent letter to the editor of KTW, in which the family doctor of nearly 30 years said he is worried about patients in Kamloops because he and other family physicians are nearing retirement.

“Many, in fact, have already retired and have not been able to find a replacement,” Del Begio said. “Our office gets many ‘Can you be our doctor’ requests every week, which we unfortunately cannot accommodate. While I have thoroughly enjoyed family medicine as a career the truth is it's very challenging and underfunded. Something needs to change.”

Del Begio noted family doctors are more than health-care providers; they are small business owners who run their own clinics and need support to for providing care, staff salaries, lease costs and supplies.

“We also need to modernize how we fund and operate clinics, so that family doctors can spend more time with patients,” Del Begio said, noting the growing amount of paperwork for family doctors takes away from providing patient care.

Aside from the physician recruitment issue, Anderson also told council that many people who were employees before the pandemic have chosen to open their own businesses, particularly those in the trades or those with expertise in one area.

Anderson said it is one factor contributing to a general labour shortage.

Anderson was asked whether social issues in Kamloops are causing red flags for businesses. He said it has not been an issue and that the only closures he hears about are the ones he reads about in the newspaper.

Recently, McDonald’s closed its location downtown, with the primary reason attributed to vandalism and safety concerns for staff amidst ongoing street issues.