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B.C. primary care teams ‘chronically understaffed,’ opposition says

Urgent care clinics reach one million visits despite shortage
The new Primary Care Centre in Chilliwack on Friday, May 13, 2022. (Jenna Hauck/Chilliwack Progress)

The B.C. government’s strategy to get medical care to people without a family doctor has focused on urgent and primary care centres that have reached more than one million patient visits, but staffing them has been an uphill battle, ministry documents show.

Health Minister Adrian Dix and B.C. Liberal health critic Shirley Bond have sparred over the shortage of doctors, nurse practitioners and other health staff, as family doctors gathered on the legislature lawn this week to call for a better deal for those running an independent medical practice.

“The Minister of Health recently confirmed to us in a letter that urgent and primary care centres have attached less than two per cent of the people who don’t have a doctor in this province,” Bond said in question period May 19.

Dix said in addition to the primary care centres, the ministry has established primary care networks with 965 full-time equivalent positions added to the teams. The effort has been made more difficult with the COVID-19 pandemic, during which the ministry authorized fees for doctor visits over the phone.

“We have 59 primary care networks that have attached 142,000 people,” Dix said. “That is the fact, and that’s the work of family practice doctors and the community. We’ve increased the family practice residency program to make it the biggest in Canada.”

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The ministry provided a breakdown of staffing levels at primary care centres (UPCC) and networks, which connect general practice doctors, nurse practitioners and specialists for mental health, addiction and other conditions. It shows that while Kelowna has a fully staffed UPCC with 25 positions, others have not yet reached their approved staff levels.

Examples of full-time equivalent (FTE) positions staffed as of March 2022 include:

• Nanaimo UPCC, 16.83 FTE funded, 5.73 staffed

• Downtown Victoria UPCC, 45.66 FTE funded, 21.61 staffed

• Quesnel UPCC, 7.02 FTE funded, 5.51 staffed

• Castlegar UPCC, 8.48 FTE funded, 5.15 staffed

• West Kelowna UPCC, 20.06 FTE funded, 12.18 staffed

• Penticton UPCC, 10.94 FTE funded, 7.54 staffed

• Ridge Meadows UPCC, 32.17 FTE funded, 26.41 staffed

• Abbotsford UPCC, 19.49 FTE funded, 10.34 staffed


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