Coleman’s health care assertions challenged

The province is spending $132 million on a program which will not produce one additional family doctor.

Editor: In Tuesday’s candidate debate (The Times, April 18), Rich Coleman stated that while B.C. puts 45 cents of every tax dollar into health care, it gets the best patient outcomes in the country. What is he talking about?

Just this month, Fifth Estate reported that, with the assistance of five of Canada’s medical evaluation experts, they had graded hundreds of Canadian hospitals. The grading included patient outcomes.

Not one hospital in B.C. made it into the top two grades of A+ or A. However, we were well-represented in the lowest grade, which was a D. Only nine hospitals in Canada received this failing mark. Five out of the nine (55 per cent) were from B.C. —  VGH, UBC, Burnaby, Surrey Memorial, and Maple Ridge.

In February of this year, the ministry of health reported that, despite an expenditure of almost $2 million to recruit foreign doctors to meet the doctor shortage, they were still 400 doctors short to meet the needs of the health authorities and hospitals alone. This is without accounting for the shortage where we, the public, feels the shortage most — in community clinics and doctors’ offices.

In March, we heard a lot about the GPforME program, which commits $132.4 million to result in a family doctor for every British Columbian by 2015. Of this, $40 million is going to be spent researching how to solve the family doctor problem. The rest is earmarked for additional and increased fees for already-practicing doctors.

Not one cent is being spent to hire new family doctors or to fund residency positions to train medical graduates who must work under a licensed doctor for two years before becoming fully-licensed family doctors.

We also heard about a new incentive program where B.C. doctors are being offered $100,000 to relocate to specified under-serviced communities for three years.

I am a lawyer. There have been years when there were no qualified lawyers available for hire.

I didn’t spend a bunch of money researching what to do. I didn’t throw money away trying to entice lawyers to leave the firms where they were working. I hired articling students. They had to be supervised for a year, but they worked hard, and within one year, my problem was solved.

There are approximately 700 Canadians, of which about 100 are from British Columbia, who studied medicine overseas who are ready, willing, and able to work.  B.C. is the only province that doesn’t allow these new doctors to apply for residency positions for more than a year after they graduate. So these young doctors go to other provinces and other countries to work. A number of these new doctors are from Bella Coola, Terrace, Port Alberni, Cranbrook, and other communities which are identified as under-serviced in the $100,000 incentive program.

Medical residents work as much as 80 hours per week. They get paid $50,000 per year.

In two years, for $100,000 per new medical graduate (the cost is more than offset by the work they do), plus administrative costs, we would have fully-qualified family doctors who could serve our province for more than 40 years.

Instead, Coleman’s government pays $100,000 to entice a doctor away from a community in which he is needed, to go somewhere else for three years. Huh?

The BC Liberal government has been saying since 2008 that it will unlock the bureaucratic barriers and provide funding so that we do not lose this valuable resource. It hasn’t happened.

Instead, the government is spending hundreds of millions of dollars to solve the doctor shortage without hiring one single doctor. A GP for me by 2015? I think not.


Rosemary Pawliuk,


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