Locum funding a band-aid solution

A new provincial program will see funding provided for locum medical practitioners to spell off rural anesthetists.

A new provincial program will see funding provided for locum medical practitioners to spell off rural anesthetists.

100 Mile House is one of 26 rural, British Columbia communities that currently qualify for the program. It will help fund locums for general practitioners who provide core anesthesia services for hospitals in rural and remote communities.

These rural physicians can apply for up to 10 days of locum coverage a year in order to take a vacation or participate in continuing medical education programs.

Local physician Dr. Rod Dickey is working on the issue of recruitment and retention of doctors and health-care professionals in the South Cariboo.

He says the funding is positive news, as “every little bit helps,” but the problem remains that there are too few general practice (GP) anesthetists to go around, especially in smaller communities, such as 100 Mile House.

“The reality is we have only one GP anesthetist in 100 Mile House who also works full-time as a general practitioner.”

As anesthetists need to be available 24 hours/seven days a week, Dickey says, adding there will continue to be a significant number of days without anesthetic coverage locally.

“While it would be great to have an anesthetist locum available here even for 10 days a year, that still leaves 355 days a year that would have to be covered by one anesthetist. It is simply not feasible.”

The 100 Mile District General Hospital has shut down its obstetrics services on several occasions during the past couple of years, and referred all expectant mothers to Williams Lake due to a lack of anesthetists.

Until the local shortage of doctors is addressed, Dickey says it’s a small solution for a bigger problem.

“In my opinion, we need more physicians in our rural communities, especially GPs with specialized training, such as anesthesia.

“Any initiative that supports that goal is welcome, but we still have a long way to go.”