Vancouver Island doctor says provincial funding is a step in the right direction

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A Vancouver Island doctor says recently announced short-term provincial funding to help family physicians is a step in the right direction, but more training is needed to fill the gaps.

The province announced $118 million in stabilization funds for operating costs faced by physicians on Wednesday.

They say the funding is available to family doctors who provide ongoing services to their patients and pay overhead costs.

It is a part of an expansion of B.C.’s primary care strategy that will be announced in the fall.

Comox Valley family doctor Dr. Jonathan Kerr welcomes the news in a time when there is a shortage of physicians.

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“I think this is a good step in the right direction for the province because we really need to encourage more family doctors to practice comprehensive family medicine,” said Kerr.

“People in the Comox Valley, people all over B.C., they want a family doctor, they want to have a relationship with a doctor and their clinic staff, and this going to allow more clinics to stay open, recruit more doctors to be family doctors and really ensure everybody in the Comox Valley and across B.C. has their own family physician.”

Kerr says the funding will be able to help with patient care for the time being. However, the province says the money will only be a temporary bandage to the issue.

Recruitment of more doctors will be necessary to fix the issue in the long term, according to Kerr. He says at the moment, recruitment has been going well in the Comox Valley and more people have been paired with doctors.

“We’ve recruited 13 new doctors to the Valley this year and we’ve attached over 5,000 patients with a new family doctor in the last 12 months,” said Kerr.

Kerr says a more permanent solution would be to train more family physicians and make education more accessible in the future.

“There’s a new medical school opening up on the mainland in a couple of years. The sooner that happens the better,” said Kerr. “We need to increase enrollment in our medical schools and increase the number of spots allocated to family physicians in the province.”

He says this is important as the population grows and also becomes older.

The short-term provincial funding will be available from October 1, 2022, to January 1, 2023.