Have a say in healthcare

GP for Me community forum takes place next week in Sidney

An ongoing shortage of general practitioners on the Saanich Peninsula has been the catalyst for the organization of a community forum this month.

The forum, sponsored by the South Island Division of Family Practice (SIDFP), the Town of Sidney, North and Central Saanich, the Saanich Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and the Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation, will span three hours in which organizers hope to gather feedback from the public on their experiences with the local healthcare system.

“The most important thing we want to learn about is people’s experiences with the healthcare system on the Saanich Peninsula, and we want to hear from people that both do and don’t have family physicians,” explained Linda Nehra, the co-ordinator for the GP for Me initiative through the SIDFP.

“We hope the public can bring forward ideas on how issues can be addressed within the system here.”

Nehra added concerns surrounding the shortage of family physicians on the Saanich Peninsula have been numerous, and despite ongoing efforts by local physicians to respond to the needs of the community, there are too few full service family doctors to meet the demand.

“The shortage also creates problems at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital where family physicians provide much of the care,” said Nehra.

In the fall of 2013, Dr. Ambrose Marsh, Chief of Staff at Saanich Peninsula Hospital, and Karen Morgan, the Executive Director for the Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation made a presentation to the three Saanich Peninsula councils regarding the dwindling numbers of doctors in the area.

Nehra said factors like general practitioners retiring — approximately 50 per cent of family doctors on the Saanich Peninsula are slated to retire in the next seven years — and the difficulty in retaining new doctors in the area are both reasons why the initiative is so important.

“The focus tends to be on bringing in GPs but we also need to remember we need to do everything we can to retain those GPs. There are people on the Peninsula who have family doctors, and they are very lucky, but there are also lots of people who don’t. We’re seeing new, young families who move into the community that don’t have a GP and can’t get one. It’s not necessarily something people think of when they move somewhere,” Nehra said.

“We also have to consider the Saanich Peninsula is home to a large senior population. I think there is heightened anxiety because of recent retirements that a patient may not have a GP,” said Nehra, adding that often a GP is a patient’s main link to referrals for specialized care, tests or treatment.

The forum will be attended by the mayors from all three municipalities, some councillors, the Saanich Peninsula Hospital Foundation and service providers in the local health care system.

“This is an opportunity to talk openly with community leaders, doctors and the general public,” said Nehra. “It’s a learning opportunity for everybody where we hope we can receive ideas big and small.”

The SIDFP held a similar forum in the Sooke area in November, added Nehra.

A GP for Me Community Forum is Saturday, Feb. 15 from noon to 3 p.m. at the Mary Winspear Centre. For details visit www.divisionsbc.ca/south-island or www.agpforme.ca.