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Thousands still waiting to find a doctor through B.C. registry

Health Minister Adrian Dix says 60,000 people have been connected to a family doctor through the Health Connect Registry, while 220,000 continue to await placement
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Paula Leweke, 67, has been trying to get a family doctor for more than two years. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

It took 30 months for Victoria’s Paula Leweke to be matched with a family physician through B.C.’s Health Connect Registry. Six months later, that doctor left to work as a hospitalist at Royal Jubilee Hospital.

Now Leweke’s back on the registry waitlist, one of an estimated 900,000 people in the province who don’t have a family doctor, according to the Canadian Community Health Survey.

Leweke hasn’t had a family doctor in almost three years after her physician left Synergy Health Centre on Quadra Street, orphaning many patients, “especially a lot of women my age.”

After 48 years as a registered nurse, Leweke, 69, says the only leg up her profession gave her was in knowing what referrals to ask for from various clinic and telehealth clinicians.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said Friday that 60,000 people have been connected to a ­family doctor through the Health ­Connect Registry — which became available province-wide last year — while 220,000 on the registry continue to await ­placements.

“We appreciate how stressful it is for some people to be without a family doctor,” he said.

The registry shows 3.8 million British Columbians are attached to a primary-care provider, while 594 practitioners in the province have indicated they can accept new patients, which would equate to serving 114,000 more patients.

“We have co-ordinators who are working with patients and with doctors and nurse practitioners’ offices across B.C. who are supporting attachment now,” said Dix, adding when digital supports are added, that will speed up the process.

Dix said last year saw 185,000 net new people come to B.C. and join the Medical Services Plan.

He provided the update ­Friday in Vancouver on the one-year anniversary of a family doctors’ payment model coming into effect. Since then, just over 700 physicians have joined family practice and an additional 60 nurse practitioners have entered community practice.

During Leweke’s time without a doctor, she had serious back pain that she described as ­“torture” and needed a hip replacement. Despite being an RN, having no addictions or drug-use history, she couldn’t get a prescription for pain ­killers without a family doctor.

Leweke got a Telus Health referral for an MRI and ­discovered she has a tethered spinal cord (attached to bone instead of floating in the spinal column) and deteriorated hip. It took about 14 months to get ­treatment, she said.

Robert Thompson said the registry worked for him, but he did a lot of follow-up over six months “and I think it helped that I was also signing up my 95-year-old mother-in-law at the same time.”

Patrice Snopkowski, 70, said her son, raised in ­Victoria, is a family doctor in North ­Vancouver but she can’t get a family doctor in Victoria.

Snopkowski lost her ­family doctor about five years ago when she downsized her ­practice in the Cook and Quadra area. The physician kept her most ­vulnerable clients, which included Snopkowski’s ­daughter and one of her two young ­children, an infant.

Now Snopkowski uses a ­telehealth service for prescriptions and other medical issues, Island Sexual Health for pap tests, and Victoria Community Health Co-operative, a nurse-run clinic on Cook Street.

Sarah Campden, 48, and her 18-year-old daughter are also on the registry and have not yet been matched with a family doctor, although her 58-year-old aunt, who she also registered, did get a physician.

Four generations of Campden’s family were under one family doctor until that ­doctor retired.

Bob Black, 69, of Central Saanich, said he and his wife will be without a family doctor as of the end of April when their doctor retires.

They signed up on the registry in January 2023 but to date, that hasn’t resulted in any matches.

Black said he called 811 Thursday to see if there was any progress on their registry placement, but was told the wait for a family doctor on Vancouver Island is a year to two years.

Black said he has some ­complex health-care issues, which have included a ­cancer, and having a consistent ­primary-care physician would be ­reassuring. “I don’t know whether they take that into consideration with the speed at which you get a family doctor or not,” said Black.

The Health Ministry said patients are triaged so those most urgently in need of care are matched first.

Anyone who lives in B.C. and needs a family doctor or nurse practitioner can register for the Health Connect Registry online at healthlinkbc.ca/health-connect-registry or by calling 811.

If you’re already on a waitlist at your local clinic, you do not need to register, according to the province.

It said primary-care provider waitlists at all clinics and community health services in B.C. are transitioning to the Health Connect Registry and patients will retain their original waitlist registration date.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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