Dr. Ursula Luitingh wants government to review requirements for foreign physicians. (THE NEWS/files)

New docs in Maple Ridge help ease shortage

Six physicians now taking on new patients

If you’re looking for a family doctor, now’s probably a good time to sign up.

Over the past several months, six new family physicians have started taking on new patients, says the Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice.

That leaves the growing Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows area still short about 10 doctors.

A physician shortage has been a nagging issue for the community as more people move to Maple Ridge while established doctors begin to retire. New doctors don’t accept the same patient load as their predecessors, increasing the challenge of people being able to find a family doctor and instead relying on walk-in clinics.

“Right now, we’re in a good position so … if they need a family doctor, they should do that now,” said Treena Innes, executive-director with the division of family practice.

The division, on its website, lists six doctors, evenly split between men and women, who are now accepting new patients.

Some might have been here for a while, but are now in the position where they’re able to take new patients.

“And over the next year, we’re expecting at least two more from the U.K. coming. We’re still working on their paperwork,” Innes said.

Sometimes, doctors just show up and set up shop, which is an added bonus, she added.

Two doctors have recently retired, but their patients were transferred to another two new doctors.

“Now is an opportunity, we have six doctors accepting patients, and fill them up before they get filled up. It’s an opportunity right now we don’t see often, so they should definitely get a family doctor,” Innes said.

Dr. Karendeep Gill is taking on new patients at the Pitt Meadows Medical Clinic, as is Dr. Pardeep Dhillon at the Ford Medical Clinic, also in Pitt Meadows.

Drs. Salendra Naidoo and Yves Thomas are taking on new patients at the Grey Clinic in downtown Maple Ridge, as is Dr. Stacy Burton at the Fraser Medical Clinic.

On the east side of Maple Ridge, Dr. Imran Ansari is welcoming new patients at the Maple Medical Clinic on 238B Street.

Another family clinic also could be coming soon to Maple Ridge.

Maple Ridge council, at its Oct. 16, passed a zoning bylaw allowing construction of a pediatric and family care clinic at 27195 Lougheed Hwy. That application was first received at city hall in 2015.

Innes said there’s still a need for a long-term strategy to ensure that the region has enough doctors for the future in a growing Maple Ridge.

“We need to have proper long-term planning for physician supply. So this a little blip right now. We’re in a good spot, but a year from now, we might not have any doctors accepting patients.”

Everywhere she goes sees new homes and people moving out to Maple Ridge, she added.

The division wants to promote the benefits of having family doctors as opposed to walk-in clinics, for long-term primary health care.

“Because that’s in your best interests, long-term,” Innes said.

Previously, the division ran a GP for Me program, aimed at bringing new doctors to the region.

That program ran for three years, ending in 2017, and brought 17 new doctors to Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows at a total program cost of $225,000.

Council, earlier this year, rejected a division request for $150,000 to help in recruitment efforts.

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