British Columbia

GP for Me program unlikely to reach promise of a doctor for all in B.C.

There are an estimated 200,000 British Columbians without a family doctor despite the province promising a new program would make them available to all by 2015.

Health minister says the program has made great strides since it was established

Some 200,000 British Columbians are still without a family doctor, says Doctors of B.C. (Getty Images)

Three years after setting out to ensure everyone in B.C. has access to a family doctor by 2015, the B.C. government says it's unlikely it will reach that goal.

According to Doctors of B.C., 200,000 British Columbians are without a family physician.

"It's unlikely that we will be able to fulfil [the promise] completely in 2015, but I can tell that from the work that's going on that we've made good progress," said B.C.'s Health Minister Terry Lake. 

Despite that, Dr. Martin Dawes says the GP for Me program has been more beneficial than it seems.

"I think it actually has addressed a lot of the problem. It's difficult to suddenly produce a lot of doctors who can look after patients in primary care," he told On the Coast's Stephen Quinn.

Dawes, who is the head of family practice at UBC, says the university has made significant strides to reduce the number of British Columbians without family doctors.

"UBC is training 50 per cent more family physicians than in 2010."

According to Dawes, an increased population in the province, coupled with a rising number of family physicians retiring, has led to a rising demand for general practitioners.

Dawes says he doesn't place the blame on the provincial government for failing to reach the promise it made in 2013. Rather, he says it was important for them to aim high.

"I think what the government has done here is saying that it really is essential for every person to have a family physician because a family physician is so important to the health of the province."

To hear more of this story, click the audio labelled: GP for Me: working or broken?


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