British Columbia

B.C. Interior doctor shortage affecting ICBC claims, lawyer says

Kamloops lawyer Jessica Vliegenthart says the lack of family doctors in B.C.’s Interior is causing delays in getting medical care for people who make ICBC claims.

Lawyer says ICBC insurance adjusters want documentation from family doctor, not walk-in clinic

Interior Health estimates 17,000 out of Kamloops's 90,000 residents are without family physicians. (iStock)

Kamloops lawyer Jessica Vliegenthart says the lack of family doctors in B.C.'s Interior is causing delays in ICBC claims and access to funding for ongoing medical care.

Vliegenthart says there are two parts to an injury claim: a settlement with ICBC, and the ongoing medical care.

"A large part of my job as a lawyer is advocating for that care," Vliegenthart said.

She says adjusters are insisting that care advice come from the client's family doctor.

In an email to CBC, Lindsay Olsen from ICBC said "we don't have a policy to not accept documentation from a walk-in doctor. ICBC accepts documentation from medical doctors licensed to practice in B.C."

Interior Health estimates about 17,000 people in Kamloops do not have a family doctor.

Vliegenthart says when she tells claim adjusters this, she gets either 'radio silence' or told she can't prove anything.

She says she's started sending newspaper clippings about the doctor shortage and Interior Health job postings for doctors to adjusters in other parts of the province who don't understand the situation in Kamloops.

A note from a walk-in clinic doctor will sometimes suffice, she says, but that means a lot of communication on her end, which ultimately prolongs the process, meaning the client doesn't get the care they need in a timely manner.

"I get adjusters phoning me saying 'this is simply a walk in clinic,' 'this doctor doesn't know this patient at all,' 'how can i trust that they're advocating for the right care.'"

"You simply have to," Vliegenthart said. 

"Our advice is always to try to return to the same clinic to have some continuity," Vliegenthart said. 

With files from Daybreak Kamloops

To hear the audio, click the left-hand link: Doctor shortage in Kamloops affecting ICBC claims