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FORSYTH: The long wait is over and I finally have a family doctor

COLUMN: How long have you waited for a family physician?
(Black Press media file photo)

I recently received one of the most exciting emails of my life, which informed me I would soon have a family physician. It felt like I had won the lottery.

My name was on the waiting list for approximately three years. I began to wonder if it had accidentally been deleted by some unfortunate computer error.

Thankfully, that was just my paranoid mind and I have a meet-and-greet appointment with my new doctor in less than two weeks.

A few days before my email, my wife learned her wait for a family doctor was over.

I was relieved to learn this, but I have to admit I was also slightly envious. What the heck? We signed up for the waiting list on the same day!

If someone had told me 10 or 15 years ago just how sweet my excitement would be at securing a family doctor, I doubt I would have believed them.

A doctor was something I took for granted for a good chunk of my life. I recall that they did start to become a bit scarce approximately 10 or so years ago (at least where I was living, in Saskatchewan).

And I mean scarce in the sense that a person might have to call around to a few medical centres if their family physician retired — not wait on a list for years.

But here I am, exceedingly grateful to be able to wait in the big room for a while, and then wait some more in the little room so I can speak with my doctor.

I was far from alone while on that wait list. Sixteen per cent of B.C. residents (approximately one million people) were without a family physician as of 2022, according to the B.C. College of Family Physicians.

Forty per cent of those who have a doctor are concerned about losing access due to retirement or the medical practice closing.

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Our medical system is in trouble. The never-ending labour shortage has affected so many areas of our economy, but this is one of the most concerning since it directly affects our health.

How long before our political leaders are able to figure out a solution? Perhaps a streamlined accreditation process for immigrants to Canada with medical degrees we do not recognize. Just think how many potential doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers are employed outside of their profession, when they could be seeing patients.

As long as I can remember this has been a political talking point and yet it’s just apparently an insurmountable challenge. I have to conclude the political will simply isn’t there at the upper echelons of government.

A journal article in the May 2023 Family Medicine and Community Health found the reasons for the shortage of family physicians in Canada include “overbearing expectations of family physicians, limited support and resources, antiquated physician compensation and high clinic operating cost.”

The article also mentioned that medical school spots and family medicine residency spots have not kept pace with our growing population.

And would you be surprised to learn B.C. ranks third for physician shortages behind the territories (55 per cent) and Quebec (21.5 per cent)?

The more Canada ages (demographically) the more doctors we will lose to retirement.

Imagine where we’ll be in 10 years or 15 years if current trends continue. Say goodbye to family doctor waiting lists, and hello to the family doctor lottery system. Hope you’re feeling lucky.

Do you have a doctor wait list tale of woe you’d like to share? Email my editor at

Kevin Forsyth is a reporter/columnist with the Parksville Qualicum Beach News

Kevin Forsyth

About the Author: Kevin Forsyth

As a lifelong learner, I enjoy experiencing new cultures and traveled around the world before making Vancouver Island my home.
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