December 28, 2019

Letter to the editor

My doctor has retired and no one has taken over his practice. Given the current situation regarding physician production and the outflow of doctors due to their retirement age, it’s highly unlikely that I’ll ever have a family doctor again.

I consider myself to be a relatively healthy 61-year-old despite having completed 37 years of military service, including multiple operational deployments. Currently, I require little more than an annual visit to renew prescriptions as required by Veterans Affairs Canada.

Now, I’ll be another lost patient joining the queue at a local walk-in clinic to access primary-care services. Should I be successful in the patient-care lottery and “win” one of the available appointments, it will use up the valuable time of a highly trained physician, time that could be better used by much more acute or complex patients.

It’s long past time for B.C. to address this situation by adding physician assistants (PAs) to primary-care clinics along with physicians and nurse practitioners in a fully funded, collaborative practice setting.

The education and credentialing of physician assistants is not the issue that protectionist bureaucrats at the B.C. Ministry of Health once used as an excuse to block their integration into our rapidly failing health-care system. Physician assistants are employed in Manitoba, Alberta, Ontario and New Brunswick, while Canadian Armed Forces physician assistants, where the skill set originated, provide quality medical care in some of the most remote locations in Canada.

Data suggests that 70 per cent of patients could be appropriately managed by physician assistants. With physician assistants joining the currently overworked health-care team, this would greatly improve patient access to timely and appropriate care and no doubt restore the dignity to patients begging for access to the public health-care system.

So, the question becomes, when can British Columbians expect to see physician assistants added to staff of the urgent primary-care clinics?

Mike McBride, Colwood