British Columbia

Looking for a family doctor? End of online database will make it harder says ER physician

The College of Physicians and Surgeons says its online database of doctors accepting patients will be discontinued on March 3.

ER doc says service was helpful in her work and calls for it to be looked at and improved

An ER doctor is dismayed that the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. will end their online family doctor database. (David Donnelly/CBC)

A service that helps British Columbians with the difficult task of finding a family doctor is being shut down.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. said in a memo to doctors obtained by CBC that its online database of doctors accepting patients will be discontinued March 3.

Dr. Valerie Athaide, an emergency room physician, says that will not only make things more difficult for some patients, but also hurt her ability to do her job.

"It can be difficult if we're ordering a non urgent test," she said. "We'd like patients to follow up that result with a regular care provider and to have them come back to emergency just adds to congestion."

The online database, she said, was a tool well-used by ER doctors to connect patients with a family doctor if they don't have one.

She says connecting a patient with a family doctor helped to make sure follow-up happens, that it happens with the same doctor consistently and that it doesn't take up emergency room resources.

College explains decision

In a Wednesday statement released Wednesday, the college said the service would actually be discontinued March 1.

It says it is being pulled, because many doctors are not accepting new patients, and they work in multiple locations creating many inaccurate reports, frustrating patients.

Another problem is that doctors are responsible for keeping their own information up-to-date and often they do not.

"The Physician Directory will continue to assist patients and others who wish to confirm whether a physician is currently registered and licensed with the College, and provide information as required by the Health Professions Act, including a business address and phone number," the statement read.

'They should look at the service'

But that explanation doesn't sit well with Athaide.

"I think rather than discontinuing the service they should look at the service and look at improving it or changing it," she said.

The college recommends those looking for a family doctor to visit HealthLink B.C.'s website — though it currently links to the service that's going to be discontinued in March.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. did not reply to a request for comment.

With files from Megan Batchelor and Tanya Fletcher