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Roughly 10,000 patients attached to family doctors in Comox Valley since 2021: DFP

Efforts from a local initiative have seen many people get attached to a family doctor in the Comox Valley since July 2021.

That is according to the Comox Valley Family Physician Recruitment and Retention Task Force. They say around 13,790 patients were without a family doctor in Dec. 2021. However, that has shrunk down to around 4,600 as of March thanks to their efforts.

It’s an accomplishment that feels amazing for family doctor and Comox Valley Division of Family Practice co-chair Samantha McRae.

“I really understand the value of having a family doctor and the difference that can make to someone’s health in the life overall.” said McRae.

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Running under the Division of Family Practice, which operates in many other communities in the province, the task force is working to recruit and keep doctors in the area and help attach patients to family doctors as practices expand or people move through the Health Connect Registry.

According to Primary Care Network manager Gavin Arthur, the registry was slower to roll out because of the pandemic but it helps them integrate a provider of care to patients now that it is running more consistently.

Arthur adds, however, that the numbers are estimates but are expected to become more accurate.

“One of the challenges we have had over the last couple of years is really getting a handle on how many people are out there that don’t have access to primary care,” said Arthur. “As the time goes on and the more and more people register on it, I think we have more confidence in the numbers.”

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He adds that the data still shows a constantly shifting landscape and people come and go and physicians retire. With the amount of people who still need a doctor, the waitlist is around eight months.

However, that is getting shorter and is an improvement from a few years ago when the wait was around 18 months.

Work to advertise and promote the area has also been a big help according to McRae. Marketing has included Instagram reels and welcome packages about living, playing and practicing in the area.

“It’s done on a fairly one on one basis, so we have a really excellent recruitment coordinator who talks to physicians who are interested, who look at the link and get a sense of what they’re looking for and how they might find the right fit,” said McRae.

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McRae adds the success seen in the Comox Valley could be seen in other areas on Vancouver Island and province as the divisions of family practice share information as to what works for them.

As the project continues forward, Arthur asks anyone who does not have access to a primary care provider to learn about the Health Connect Registry and get signed up to be matched to a doctor.

McRae adds that the job of being a family physician has changed over the years, it has become a less appealing field and options to make it more appealing need to be explored.

“How do we support with other care providers; how do we support with physicians who have trained in other countries?” said McRae. “All of those programs and policies can help the problem.”

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More information about the registry can be found here.

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