British Columbia

B.C. announces $118M in funding as 'first step' to support family doctors

British Columbia's health minister has announced $118M in interim funding in to support family doctors.

Plan is to maintain health care until province can create new payment system for physicians

Adrian Dix, a white man with a black tie and a black coat on, talks at a podium marked 'British Columbia'. The flags of B.C. and the U.K. are behind him.
B.C. Health Minister announces funding to support for family physicians on Aug. 24, 2022. (Justine Boulin/CBC)

British Columbia's health minister announced $118 million in interim funding Wednesday to support family doctors in the province. 

Adrian Dix says the funding will help stabilize B.C.'s primary care system while the province builds a new compensation model for doctors. 

Dix said the four-month program, which will begin Oct. 1, will help address the issue of overhead costs faced by family doctors.

"I think it's fair to say that our primary-care system, which developed over a long period of time — that model no longer meets the needs of patients, meets the needs of doctors," he said. "So this is a demonstration, tangible action right now that brings immediate relief to family practices."

The total $118 million in funding is available to about 3,480 family doctors who have their own practices and 1,100 working in walk-in clinics. 

Physicians who earn salaries and don't pay any overhead won't qualify, Dix said.

Part of the idea of the payout is to close the gap between family doctors who pay the costs of operating a practice out of their income, and hospitalists, who may have the same training but work at a hospital, Dix said.

"Effectively they are paid significantly more than someone who is working in longitudinal family practice, in full-service family practice. So what this does for this period is address that particular issue,'' Dix said.

A new compensation model designed to attract and retain family doctors will be unveiled in the fall, Dix said. 

Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh,  president of Doctors of B.C., called the funding "a first step" to help family doctors, saying it acknowledges the complexity of longitudinal care. Operational costs have risen to eat up an average 30 per cent to 40 per cent of a family doctor's income, she said, and has led to many leaving their practices.

Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh talks at a podium marked British Columbia, with the B.C. flag behind her. She is a South Asian woman wearing a black dress.
Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh, president of Doctors of B.C., called the one-time funding a positive "first step" as the province works towards a new compensation model for family doctors. (Justine Boulin/CBC)

"We have a lot of work ahead of us to achieve longer-term solutions, to help the primary health-care system in this province, but I do believe that we are one step closer to getting there," Dosanjh said.

The funding consists of $75 million from the health ministry and $43 million from the General Practices Services Committee, which  was established through the physician master agreement and is co-chaired by the health ministry and Doctors of B.C.

The application process will be straightforward and physicians who apply in September should receive their funds in October, Dix said.

Nearly a million British Columbians are without a family doctor.

With files from The Canadian Press