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Letter: It's nearly impossible to find a family doctor. A phone call isn't enough

A patient speaks out getting shuffled from clinic to clinic after his doctor retired.
Metro Vancouver residents are struggling to find family doctors. iStock photo


Re: An open letter to the B.C. Ministry of Health

As a retired 81-year-old relatively healthy male with a 79-year-old wife who has been unwell for some time, I implore you to make the doctor shortage concern the most serious problem we have in 2022.
We, like many in the past, were blessed to have a family doctor here in New Westminster for over 30 years. At age 76 and somewhat unwell himself, he decided to retire.    

Like any business, I assumed that there would be a lineup of newly minted G.P.s ready to buy this ready-made 2000-patient list together with a converted house for the office with unlimited street parking. But alas, our doctor said there were no buyers at any price. So he closed up and sold the house. And I want to point out that he didn’t need the money.
Apparently, graduating medical students knew that they could come into society, hang up their shingle anywhere and “cherry pick their patients.” And, alternately, they could simply join a “clinic,” work three to four days a week and go golfing. Great life, eh? They could also become specialists to reduce their hours while making more money, so not nearly enough G.P.s. coming through the system.
Now I get to the root of the problem.  
So our doctor had no other doctors he could refer us to and suggested we pick out one of the “clinics” and set up a “meet-and-greet” with one of their doctors, which we did. 
We met with a young doctor and set up a relationship through the clinic. Not knowing much about “walk-in clinics,” our new doctor after one year was overwhelmed. And we could clearly see that, however, he never rushed us at any appointment. But he left to become a hospitalist.
At that point there were no other doctors at this clinic taking on new patients, so we were put on a “list.” In the interim, they assigned us a nurse practitioner. 

Unfortunately, our personalities clashed so we were waiting for a new doctor to be hired at the clinic.

On top of this, I had to take my wife into Royal Columbian hospital on three occasions and each time we were told that having a nurse practitioner was not suitable to look after my wife with her weak immune system and other specific illnesses. She needed a full-fledged doctor. We heard that the clinic had hired a new doctor who was available on a walk-in basis and we struck up a relationship with this new doctor. After “arranging” our irregular appointments on the days he was available and on site, we kept hoping that he would be permanent and take us on as permanent patients but he could not as he was hired as a “walk-in doctor.”  

Suddenly one day, when we had a “telephone meeting” with him for new prescriptions, the receptionist phoned that morning and advised that the doctor could no longer even serve us as he was now strictly a full-time “walk-in-only doctor.”
So now, a few days later, we were called by another new doctor hired by the clinic to get the prescriptions. We asked if he could take us on as patients. To our surprise, he told us that he could not.
So we then went to another local clinic. Now this was also a strong “walk-in clinic” but did have actual doctors on site for a short while. At present, they have “none” and all appointments are done by telephone only and their doctors are from “contracted out services” so you never talk to the same one on the phone twice.
Somehow, this clinic thing got out of control and simply does not work. They also have government quotas so many close their doors just after lunch. I guess they made their money. It can’t be cost-efficient for government when we pay for just a so-called telephone cure in just a few minutes. No face-to-face contact is simply unacceptable when it comes to your health.

Bill Davis, New Westminster