Citizens for a Livable Cranbrook Society provides grassroots leadership and an inclusive process, with a voice for all community members, to ensure that our community grows and develops in a way that incorporates an environmental ethic, offers a range of housing and transportation choices, encourages a vibrant and cultural life and supports sustainable, meaningful employment and business opportunities.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Michael's Musings

"Further delays in grappling with doctor issue will compound crisis..."

By Michael J Morris

From Tofino, to Cranbrook, to Fogo Island In Newfoundland and Labrador, and many places in between across Canada, there is a shortage of family physicians, and it appears the situation will become desperate if meaningful action is not taken now.

Like many Canadians, I took it for granted that I would always have a family physician available to see me when I called for an appointment. In fact, even though I spent a good part of my life in a small community, it was never a problem to see my doctor and get the care I needed.

The same applied after I moved to Cranbrook 25 years ago -- at least it did for my first 20 years or so. Then my doctor decided it was time to retire after practising medicine here for over 35 years. He did all he could to recruit a replacement, and doctors came and went, much like through a revolving door, and my doctor returned for a time each year.

It prompted me to comment, somewhat jokingly that I had to plan any illness for those times when he was back in Cranbrook. Seriously though, as we all know that is not always possible.

Then the situation brightened. New doctors arrived and I was most fortunate to be accepted as a patient by one of them  about two years ago.

My story about the family physician shortage in Cranbrook is pretty tame compared to some I have heard in the past few years.

Now the situation appears to be worsening in Cranbrook with notices appearing in two clinics that I know of advising patients they no longer have a physician or that some are leaving.

I did an anecdotal survey using Google about the state of availability of family physicians across Canada and while statistics vary, 4 to 5 million Canadians do not have one, according to a report done in 2011 by the British Columbia Chamber of Commerce in 2011.

In Cranbrook, my best guess is that at the moment, at least 20 percent of the citizens do not now or will not soon have a family physician.

The report notes that although urban areas are somewhat better served, "the situation in rural and small town Canada is often described as desperate by health care experts".

Here in Cranbrook. city council,  despite objections from some members, approved a request from its committee on family services to look into possible solutions to the family physician shortage.  However, Councillor Sharon Cross reports that a first "Red Carpet" welcome has been conducted with a potential new doctor.

Maybe a comment in the B.C. Chamber of Commerce report will spark a more positive response from those council members who don't see it as an issue, as well as prompt those who may seek election this year, to make it a priority in their platform.

It is not only a matter of providing adequate health care for all citizens, but a looming potentially huge economic issue.

The report warned that if the shortage continues, "... it is only a matter of time until businesses feel the effect of their employees making decision about continued employment based not on the job or the salary but based on the quality of health care that they and their families will be able to receive in the community where the business is located."

The report concludes: "Further delays in grappling with the doctor shortage... will compound the crisis in the years ahead and could severely impact the ability of our country and provinces to attract new businesses and new workers to our communities."

Never mind the years ahead folks. I know people in Cranbrook right now who are assessing their options given the family physician shortage here now, and making inquiries about the family physician situation elsewhere.

Time for action is today to attract and retain family physicians in Cranbrook. My email is
Here is link to the BC Chamber of Commerce report:

Full disclosure: I am not now and never have been a member of the Citizens for a Livable Cranbrook Society; however, I did conduct a workshop for its members for which I was paid.

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