Medi-Kel walk-in clinic opened its new location in 2017. Doctor shortages have been an ongoing issue in B.C. - Credit: Contributed

Year in Review: After shortage, Central Okanagan experiences surge of doctors

Doctors were hired in Lake Country and Kelowna

After an ongoing shortage of doctors in the Central Okanagan, 2018 saw an increase with the opening of new medical facilities.

A new medical clinic in Kelowna and the expansion of another in Lake Country allowed residents to sign up for a family doctor.

Turtle Bay Medical Clinic expanded in Lake Country, taking over empty space in the Turtle Bay Crossing complex. The facility houses nine doctors, operations manager Kiffer Walker said.

Two of the doctors at the Lake Country location recently moved to the new clinic on Hillside Drive in Kelowna. Currently, five physicians are located at the Hillside Medical Clinic.

“We’ve been really lucky, we’ve been able to recruit 10 physicians in the last year which is unheard of in B.C.,” Walker said.

“We have a different way of operating which allows them to not have to worry about running a business… we make it easy for them, they show up and get to be a doctor.”

The Lake Country Family Practice also got doctor in August.

Dr. Eric Cadesky, president of Doctors of BC, said the Okanagan lifestyle may be one of the reasons why doctors are finding the location desirable.

“Having travelled to the Okanagan and knowing it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and the doctors that are there are hard working, and dedicated and there’s an excellent community of doctors,” he said.

With the aging population, the demands on doctors are increasing. The increase in treatment options is another factor that is contributing to a shortage in doctors Canada-wide, he said.

READ MORE: Okanagan doctor shortage worsens

He said there is a need for innovation moving forward, with a balance between the public getting access to care and the doctors spending the most of their time doing their job.

The NDP government also launched a new primary healthcare plan in May, with Premier John Horgan promising it will deliver faster and improved access to healthcare.

In 2017, The shortfall of family doctors in the Central Okanagan placed increasing pressure on medical walk-in clinics, says the founding director of the Walk-In Clinics of B.C. Association.

The Okanagan is notorious for its doctor shortages which is also tied to increasing overhead costs for businesses.

READ MORE: Central Okanagan Medical clinics shuffle

“There’s a general consensus that physicians are some of the highest paid people in the country,” said Mike McLoughlin, of the Walk-In Clinics of BC Association, who stated specialists such as surgeons are paid well, but family doctors are paid through office visits and prices haven’t significantly changed in 10 years.

To recruit doctors, businesses also have to offer them a good deal, he said. Typically the ratio of pay is $65 for a doctor and $35 for the clinic. But with the shortages in B.C., businesses like Turtle Bay Medical and Medi-Kel offer a $75 to $25 ratio. Stand-alone companies may not be able to afford the ratio or they may discontinue walk-ins, said McLoughlin.

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