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Frustrations heard about lack of primary care during rally in Smithers

A group of residents and local doctors gathered in Smithers to raise awareness about the doctor shortage that exists in the province and the community.

General Practitioners, nurses and community members gathered at the intersection of Second Avenue and Main Street where there was discussion about the lack of primary care in the Valley.

Rally sign (supplied by: Lindsay Newman)

It is estimated that between Topley to Witset within the year primary care will only be available to approximately 10,000 people out of 18,000 that live in that area.

According to Dr. Chris Yeker, the rally is aimed at advocating for access to some sort of longitudinal primary care for those without a family doctor or a nurse practitioner.

He said that over time doctors across the province are seeing that more and more people are unattached to a family doctor.

“That’s certainly echoed here locally, in a small community one or two doctors make a huge difference in the number of people, you know the percentage of people that have access to primary care. I think if the pattern does not change the situation is probably going to get worse,” Dr. Yeker said.

He added that since there are no clinics the emergency room is usually busy because of patients needing primary care.

According to Dr. Yeker, a walk-in would be helpful but the health care system in the region does not have the capacity to staff a privately owned walk-in clinic.

He also said to attract doctors to rural communities there needs to be more information available.

“One thing we’re facing right now is just the challenge of recruitment, getting information out to new doctors who are entering practice that there are opportunities here and we’re kind of left to fend for ourselves in terms of recruitment,” Dr. Yeker said.

Rally held this afternoon at Second Ave and Main Street (supplied by: Lindsay Newman)

He added that there needs to be increased support and retention to get doctors to rural communities.

According to Dr. Yeker, in the emergency department he hears frustration about the lack of primary care that is in the community.

Currently, no clinics in the Smithers area are accepting new patients.

He is encouraging residents to reach out to their local MP and MLA and express their concerns about the lack of primary care.

A rally was also held at the BC Legislature in Victoria by patient-led group BC Health Care Matters.

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