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Patients struggle to see doctors

They may have doctors, but getting in to see them is another story.

That is one of the chief findings of a recent  Community Health Care Survey administered through the Shuswap North Okanagan Division of Family Practice.

Designed to assess the current state of primary health care in Salmon Arm, Sorrento, Sicamous, Enderby, Armstrong, Lumby and Vernon, the suvey is a first step in A GP for Me, an initiative of Doctors of BC (formerly BC Medical Association) and the Ministry of Health.

The GP for Me program was born of research that shows optimum health is achieved through a strong primary care system centred on continuous doctor-patient relationships.

“The first thing members of the family practice needed to know was how many people have their own family doctors and how long they have been with them,” says executive director Tracey Kirkman.

Administered online from Feb. 1 to March 31, with more than 1,240 responding – 40 more than the target number, this “health-care snapshot” reveals:

• 86 per cent of respondents currently have a family doctor, 77 per cent for more than five years;

• 98 per cent believe it’s important to have a family doctor;

• 80 per cent reported their health as excellent;

• 65 per cent have ongoing chronic health issues;

• 37 per cent are responsible for the health and well-being of others;

• Respondents are most frustrated by accessing timely appointments and wait times;

• Transportation is the third most common frustration;

• Nearly 80 per cent have seen a family doctor in the last year for routine care;

• Less than half accessed urgent care at emergency rooms or walk-in clinics and,

• Approximately one-third have accessed alternative care such as a naturopath or nurse practitioner.

Kirkman says the next step is to support local communities that have existing recruitment initiatives underway and to explore new recruitment opportunities for the whole area.

“As you’ll see from survey results, the biggest frustration people have is wait times, so we will be looking at ways to help physicians be as efficient as possible and continue to support them around chronic disease management by providing continuing medical education opportunities,” Kirkman says, noting the third goal is to look at opportunities to do some patient empowerment and education.

“We really need to question how we approach the system. There are limited funds and services, yet we seem to have infinite needs and wants,” she says.

With 65 per cent of respondents indicating they have chronic diseases, the practice wants to make sure the doctors are up-to-speed with the latest education.

In terms of public awareness and education, Kirkman says people need to be aware of when it is appropriate to go to a doctor rather than emergency.

“ER is over-used,” she says. “We have to make the right choices when it comes to the health-care system, otherwise it’s not sustainable.”

 

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