Eight new family doctors were recruited to the Comox Valley this year to fill a shortage in the area.
As family doctors serve between 500 and 2,000 patients on average, this new influx created resources for thousands of people in the Valley who did not have a doctor before. Since last September, more than 6,000 have been paired with family doctors in the Valley.
The results follow from the efforts of a local group, called the “Task Force.” The Task Force is a collaboration of many Valley people, including doctors, councillors, and business owners who share the goal of recruiting doctors to the area.
According to Jonathan Kerr, co-chair of the Task Force, 28 new doctors were recruited in the last two years, since the project started.
Attracting new doctors has the benefit of leveraging Comox Valley’s strengths, such as outdoor recreation trails, proximity to the sea, and the right sized community which is neither too big nor small, Kerr told the Record. The idea is to convince doctors that Comox Valley is where they want to be.
To keep track of residents who lack a family doctor, the the Comox Valley Division of Family Practice maintains a local list, part of the provincial health connect registry*. New doctors arriving in the area can leverage the list to build a client base for themselves.
“They can say to the registry, ‘Hey, can you give me 500 names?,’” said Kerr. “We are very fortunate in the Valley that we have a lot to offer.”
This service assures potential new doctors that, if they come to the Valley, they will be assisted in building up a client base for themselves, Kerr said. It makes the decision more attractive.
Kerr also mentioned that some retiring doctors are using the newcomers to pass their practice over, as the retiring doctors finally feel comfortable that they are not leaving their patients without health care. According to Kerr, this recently happened for Dr. Wilson, who was practising in the small community of Denman Island.
In order to get new doctors to consider the Valley, the Task Force collaborates on many fronts. The group organizes tours, media, and campaigns to get doctors interested. They also hope the efforts will generate buzz in the health-care community so that other prospective doctors catch word and consider moving here.
Efforts started in 2021, when Kerr was campaigning for a seat on Comox council. He said he surveyed around 1,000 households about the issues of the community and was told that a major concern was the lack of family doctors in the area.
Following this, the Task Force was formed by merging local actors to meet four times a year. They collaborate on the best ideas to bring new family doctors to the Valley.
While communities across Canada are also doing the same, Kerr said Comox Valley has an edge on the competition due to the uncommon level of collaboration going on between so many different community players.
In order to register for the list at Health Connect Registry, visit healthlinkbc.ca/health-connect-registry/comox-valley.
*The original article had the operator and title of the registry wrong. The operator is the Division of Family Practice, and the referenced list is part of the Health Connect Registry.