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Residents, doctors call for changes to local healthcare system

Some Comox Valley residents and family doctors are calling for changes to the local healthcare system.

Speaking at a rally held by the BC Green Party Thursday, Town of Comox councillor and family practitioner Jonathan Kerr said the doctor shortage is affecting many across the valley.

Kerr said there are currently 10,136 people in the area without a family doctor.

According to Kerr, 13 doctors are being welcomed to the valley in 2022. He adds five have already started and eight more will be starting in the fall.

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Despite more doctors, Kerr said it is difficult to say how many people will be able to receive care.

“The goal is to have enough family doctors so that every person in the Comox Valley has their own personal family physician,” said Kerr. “We’ve been really fortunate, already since last July [attaching] 5,000 people to their own doctor.”

Despite the increase, the situation has been difficult for some residents.

Dianne and Jay van Ostan, a couple attending the rally, said they lost their family doctor a few years ago and have struggled to find a solution.

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“We moved to the valley eight years ago, we looked around and there were actually doctors around who were accepting new patients,” said Jay. “In February [our doctor] had a heart attack and died.

“When we look around now, there are no doctors accepting patients.”

Dianne said the situation is scary because they are told to go to walk-in clinics, which she says have long waits or are closing as well.

“This makes me cry. We’re fairly healthy, we’re 70-something, we bicycle, we hike, we kayak and we do need to have someone we can talk to and care for us,” said Dianne.

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Kerr suggested a solution to the problem begins with talking to patients and looking at different care models.

“It starts with what patients and families want, and patients are telling us they want wrap-around care where doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, dieticians, occupational therapists are all available to them,” said Kerr.

“So, something like a family health team model or primary care network model where patients have access to all these services is where we should start.”

BC Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau has been touring B.C. communities, learning about healthcare concerns in various areas.

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