Dr. Ursula Luitingh, at Golden Ears Family Practice, said doctors know patients are frustrated, but pointed out it’s a provincewide problem. (THE NEWS/files)

Maple Ridge wants to help, but won’t pay to bring more MDs

Rejects request for $150,000 to help recruitment

Maple Ridge council wants to help, but it’s not going to cough up $150,000 to help the province provide doctors for this area.

Council, on Tuesday, supported a staff recommendation to reject the request, but instead offered to help by marketing the city to physicians and developing a welcoming program for any new arrivals.

Treena Innes, executive-director of the Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice, spoke to council in May and said an estimated 20 per cent of the city’s doctors will be retiring in the next five years.

The division had asked for $75,000 to cover that group’s recruitment and retention costs, and another $75,000 to hire a professional recruiter for 12 months, with a budget of recruiting five family doctors at a cost of $15,000 each.

The province funded the program A GP For Me for three years as a physician recruitment initiative. That program was successful in attracting 17 family physicians to Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows, but funding ended two years ago.

Coun. Bob Masse was one of two councillors who favoured giving the cash, even though he knows health care is a provincial responsibility.

“It’s not good. It’s not good at all for the number of people who don’t have a doctor in the community.”

The Canada Health Act requires that the province provide accessible health care, he added.

Anytime a doctor retires, it takes two or three new doctors to replace the retiring physician because the newcomers don’t want to work as of long hours.

Maple Ridge will be getting five new doctors in the next few months, they’ll be replacing two who are retiring and another who’s leaving the country. Four of the new doctors are from the U.K. and the fifth is from B.C.

However, Maple Ridge still will be 15 doctors short, Innes said.

Masse added that the pressure has to stay on the provincial government, otherwise it won’t address the problem.

The city has pressured senior governments and passed a resolution on the topic to the Union of B.C. Municipalities.

Innes said it’s good that the city and other agencies want to help, but the problem is there are just not enough physicians around to recruit. Sky-high house prices in Metro Vancouver also makes it difficult to convince someone to move.

Maple Ridge’s marketing efforts could include making a video with local doctors testifying about what it’s like to work and live in Maple Ridge.

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