Changes required to attract doctors

EDITORIAL: Enderby fighting for policy changes to help such small communities attract doctors

Enderby is facing a situation many other B.C. communities have experienced in recent years.

Doctors are packing their bags for other opportunities or retiring and that is leaving patients no one to turn to when their health deteriorates.

That’s why Enderby’s decision to lobby the provincial government for policy changes is so critical.

As it stands, each rural community is classified on an isolation-based point system which determines if incentives are available for doctors moving there. For towns like Enderby, they rate very low because they are next to larger communities, such as Vernon, and not considered isolated.

The problem is these smaller towns are often overshadowed by the more populous city and its amenities, and doctors head for the bright lights.

The ranking system also doesn’t acknowledge the circumstances facing small communities no matter their size. Many of them have a growing number of seniors, which places pressure on the medical system, while certain demographics, such as First Nations, have specific health care needs.

Without a sufficient physician base, there is a concern that seniors will leave town, which has significant implications for businesses and the economy. Young families may pass a community by if there isn’t a doctor readily at hand when a child is injured or sick.

It’s not enough to send out glossy brochures and say how great the lifestyle is. There must be concrete financial incentives provided if a physician is going to consider moving to a town and committing themselves to residents.

The provincial government, and particularly Shuswap MLA George Abbott, a former health minister, needs to become more active in ensuring the long-term viability of our rural areas.