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B.C. family doctor shortage sparks hundreds to rally in Victoria

Advocates say 1 in 5 people in B.C. lack a general practitioner

Hundreds flocked to the legislature grounds Thursday (May 19) as members of grassroots organization BC Health Care Matters called on the province to address a family doctor shortage affecting a reported 20 per cent of British Columbians.

Of the roughly 400 people who attended the midday rally on World Family Doctor Day, some of those with a family physician donned white, while some of those without wore black.

Anyone interested in sharing their personal struggle or tragedy amid the doctor shortage was invited to write it out on a sticky note at the event’s info booth to have it shared publicly on the BC Health Care Matters website.

“My hope is that every one of you will leave here today with a heart full of hope, a mind full of knowledge and an urge to join BC Health Care Matters on our next steps to campaign for the family doctor everyone deserves,” said Camille Currie, founder of BC Health Care Matters.

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Currie, who emerged from the legislature after the rally started, spent the morning meeting with Premier John Horgan and Minister of Health Adrian Dix to table a series of proposals put forward by the organization.

“If the government continues to not be transparent and continues to delay taking action, then we will continue to ramp up our efforts and highlight the need for action now,” she said. She noted that even some family doctors don’t have their own family physician.

“I have witnessed the benefits of having a family doctor that knows us, knows our conditions and that grows with us,” said Currie, a complex-needs patient herself.

Alexis Reid, project lead for BC Health Care Matters, said the rally was beyond her wildest dreams.

“In just over three months, I have watched this campaign explode. I’m honoured to have been given the chance to work with Camille and to help her build this campaign.”

Current data indicate one in five British Columbians and 100,000 Greater Victoria residents lack a family doctor, a stat highlighted by the ralliers.

Campaign volunteer Sharman Minus read stories of personal hardships suffered by B.C. residents caused by insufficient access to family doctors. One writer’s niece died of cancer, another’s son suffers from chronic health conditions, and one woman suffered a heart attack and needed emergency angioplasty after her family doctor retired. Minus revealed that woman to be herself.

“Politicians, enough with the Band-Aid solutions,” she said. “The shortage is killing people.”

Dr. Jennifer Lush, a medical consultant and family physician, called for primary care reform and prioritized treating patients themselves over treating the diseases they suffer from. “Hold your hands high and stand alongside the public of B.C. as they fight for the right to have a family physician who cares for them.”

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The event featured an a cappella performance by the Raging Grannies, who sang about “hot fevers” and “cold sweats” in the middle of the night from a lack of family doctors and prescribed medicine.

“We’re furious about the situation of public health and the lack of doctors,” one Raging Grannies member said. “We just have to keep this up until we get doctors.”

A representative of the BC College of Family Physicians attending the event told Black Press Media the group had also met Thursday with the health minister.

“It’s really lovely to see us all combine together,” she said. “We need to make it so that everyone can have a family doctor.”


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