CLEARWATER – A recent announcement that the BC government and BC Medical Association are offering doctors a $100,000 bonus to relocate to selected rural communities (including Clearwater) for three years is viewed as a positive step by local physician Dr. John Soles.
“This is good news for our community,” he said. “As you know, we have been actively recruiting for years with limited success … This new financial incentive is a form of crisis management and is certainly not the long term solution to creating sustainable health care in rural communities. It should, however, make a significant difference in recruiting doctors immediately and could keep some hospitals from closing.”
Soles noted that the last two physicians recruited to Clearwater, Dr. Theocharous and Dr. Stuart, both came from South Africa. This source of new physicians was closed in January of last year because of changes in the rules for medical registration in this province.
He added that, although more Canadian medical school graduates have been setting up practice in larger B.C. rural communities in the last two or three years, the smaller communities have so far not benefited from this trend.
“Having two physicians commit to three years of practice in this community will help provide the continuity of care that our patients deserve, will have huge benefits in ensuring ongoing emergency room coverage, and will remove some of the anxiety that I am sure many of us both in the medical field and in the community have felt because of ongoing uncertainty regarding physician availability,” Soles said.
“It is also an opportunity for the community to demonstrate to these doctors why Clearwater is a great place to live, and why they should consider making it their home for the long term.”
The local physician commented that, for many people, $100 000 seems a large sum of money, even distributed over three years. He noted that the locums who cover most of the medical needs not covered by resident doctors in this community are paid $950 a day, plus their housing and expenses are also covered.
“Having doctors here for three years providing continuous comprehensive care to their patients and covering our emergency room and hospital will provide better care, with less uncertainty, and at lower total cost to the system, and our community,” he said.
The announcement is also being viewed positively by Kamloops-North Thompson MLA Terry Lake.
“Local, accessible healthcare is a necessity for British Columbians. Our rural communities deserve the best care available and this incentive will help attract two much needed physicians to the Clearwater area,” Lake said.
According to the announcement, the B.C. government and the BCMA are partnering to establish a new incentive that will help fill 20 pre-designated family physician and specialist positions in 17 rural communities, including two general practitioners for Clearwater.
The Rural Physicians for British Columbia program incentive provides new and additional support for those rural communities that have experienced the most difficulty in recruiting and retaining physicians.
The incentive will provide each physician with a one-time payment of $100,000 when they commit to a three-year return of service in the 17 designated rural communities.
Participating physicians will receive $50,000 when they begin working in the community and the remaining $50,000 will be paid once they have completed one year of service.
The 17 selected communities are Bella Coola, Burns Lake, Chetwynd, Clearwater, Cranbrook, Galiano Island, Hazelton, Kitimat, Nakusp, Pemberton, Port Hardy, Port Alberni, Princeton, Quesnel, Terrace, Tofino, and Tumbler Ridge.