Health Minister Kevin Falcon deserves kudos for his announced plan ..or should I say at least an attempt … to have all British Columbians have ther own family doctor within five years.
But he doesn’t go far enough.
I am fortunate to have a GP (general practictioner) but it was not easy finding one and getting accepted as a new client a few years back after my previous family doctor shut down his practice. And I am convinced that, in the long run, having a dedicated GP who knows my “file” saves the health system a lot of money.
On occasion, especially on weekends, I have used walk-in clinics for minor ailments … and frankly, felt I experienced substandard and even uncaring “attention”. No one should have to put up with walk-in clinics as their regular medical provider. And I can easily understand why many prefer to go to the Emergency department of a hospital for care, even in non-emergency situations, and despite the hours-long-wait and horrendous cost to the health system.
I agree with Falcon that linking every British Columbian with a family doctor could not only result in better care …but a more efificient and cost-effective system.
But he should go further.
As the Minister noted, BC’s medical schools are now turning out about 288 new doctors a year. That will help … if they stay in B.C. to practice. But almost as soon as they graduate, doctors are head-hunted by U.S. sources, and even health authorities/practices in other Canadian provinces, offering bigger salaries and even signing bonuses.
And nurses and other health care workers … as well as specialists in other areas of the economy… are regularly raided as well.
Of course, in a democracy, there is no way to force people to stay here. However, I believe there is something terribly wrong with a system,, under which taxpayers subsidize or almost completely cover the cost of educating anyone … especially highly trained and expensively-trained experts … and then off they go to “greener” pastures.
(And I don’t like the idea of BC or Canada doing it either to others, espeically third world countries, that dearly need the sometimes specialzed help they have educated with very scant resources.)
What’s the solution? They should stay or repay.
As the cost of providing highly advanced education skyrockets, governments should require those who accept subsidies or public funding for their education to sign commitment contracts: agree to stay and work in the province for say, five to eight years after graduation … or repay the publicly-funded portion of their education, on a sliding scale.
And not just doctors, nurses etc … but engineers, educators, high tech specialists … anyone who falls into a category, where there is a demonstrated need or shortage in the province or country. .. and has been designated so by the provincial or federal government.
We are talking hundreds of millions of education dollars here that could be recouped and plowed back into the system and help those who need it. And I have no doubt that, once settled in to a job, a practice or a community for five to eight years after graduation, prospects would be more difficult to be targettted by the out-of-province raiders.
It would be a bold move .. . but it would send a real message to those lucky enough to be so highly educated by taxes paid by others much less fortunate: there is no more free ride.