I am writing to you about the tens of thousands of British Columbians that visit licensed naturopathic doctors (NDs) for primary care.
Although most NDs are in large urban areas, demand for NDs across B.C. is growing rapidly. Most importantly, NDs in rural areas are meeting a need and desire for patient-centred primary care.
You may have seen the provincial government’s recent announcement of the, “A GP for Me” initiative, intended to find solutions to the GP shortage which is more acute in rural areas. What your readers may not be aware of is, there are myriad opportunities to see an ND in Vernon and throughout the Okanagan. The 10 NDs in Vernon are some of the more than 500 licensed NDs in B.C., all of whom can, and do, act to meet the demand for primary care.
While the care that B.C.’s NDs provide is generally not covered by the provincial Medical Services Plan, their focus on overall wellness, providing primary care with attention to disease prevention, diet, environment and health history is a draw to patients (most of whom have extended health coverage). NDs can also prescribe scheduled drugs, when and if appropriate.
In 2008, the Liberal government, under then health minister George Abbott, made two throne speech commitments to naturopathic physicians. The first, limited prescription rights, was realized in 2010. The second, access to B.C.’s privately owned but publicly funded medical laboratories, has yet to be acted upon.
We believe that NDs can and already do address the shortage of GPs by offering comparable services.
I would like to encourage your readers — in support of the NDs already practicing in your community as primary care providers — to contact their local MLA and voice support for diagnostic access for B.C.’s NDs.
Dr. Deborah Phair,
B.C. Naturopathic Association president