‘We are definitely in a crisis’: South Okanagan mayors work to address doctor shortage | Globalnews.ca

South Okanagan faces a health care crisis as thousands of residents do not have a family doctor.

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According to the BC College of Family Physicians, as of April, nearly one million British Columbians do not have or cannot get a family doctor.

Meanwhile, Oliver Mayor Martin Johansen says the South Okanagan is closing in on 5,000 single patients.

“So what you do is add extra workload to the ER because your only access to care is to go to the ER or travel to Penticton,” Johansen said.

“My biggest concern is the collapse of the health system. We are definitely in a crisis here.”

Johansen and Osoyoos Mayor Sue McKortoff are working with the province to help resolve this issue and recently met with BC Minister of Health Adrian Dix.

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“It was really a great meeting, I thought it was a productive meeting,” said Johansen.

“And I really thought that was a breakthrough that I had been looking for. And really what was the progress, the minister wanted a follow-up meeting with us”.

According to Johansen, the area lacks substitute doctors, creating an overwhelming workload for the family doctors who are still practicing. In addition, this year several doctors are retiring without replacement.

“I think the workload is becoming unsustainable for doctors who work 70 to 80 hours a week. This is not something realistic,” said Johansen.

This problem affects McKortoff closely, since he recently lost his family doctor.

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“I have lived here for 53 years and have always had a family doctor, until June 30,” McKortoff said.

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“I no longer have a family doctor. My doctor has decided that he is not going to have a longitudinal practice.”

Mckortoff added that this issue will not be fixed overnight and will require a collaborative effort.

“The bottom line is that we all want to be able to work together and provide medical services. And a lot of people say, well, look, you just do this, and you just do that. But that doesn’t work because there are too many issues that need to be blocked,” McKortoff said.

Johansen and McKortoff say they will do whatever they can to help address the health care crisis.

The couple are working on solutions that they will present to the BC health minister at their follow-up meeting.

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