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In search of primary−care renewal (Times Colonist (Victoria))

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Times Colonist (Victoria) 2006.03.02 Final Comment A11 Chris Pengilly Special to Times Colonist Photo: Times Colonist file / Full−service family physiciansare a bargain in B.C. ILLUSTRATION: considering the amount of unpaid patient care they provide, a general practitioner writes. WORD COUNT: 711 A recent survey has shown that British Columbians are above the national average for parameters of health, but are more discontent with their health delivery service. This might sound like a paradox, but I think reflects a healthy lifestyle, and the failure of both levels of government to complement this. A failure that results in inappropriate funding, and failure to recognize the value of family practice. There seems to be a fundamental flaw in the thinking of the health−care bureaucracy −− but more about that later. The federal government has launched a program entitled National Primary Health Care Awareness Strategy. At the moment the program seems to comprise little except an expensive advertising campaign on the television, newspapers and the Internet. I feel this money would be much better spent being directed to patient care. Primary health care is probably the bargain of the century. Physicians' fees make up 20 per cent of the entire health−care budget −− and family practice comprises 30 per cent of this. So for seven per cent of the health−care budget the public gets the physician and all the infrastructure required to deliver primary care −− that is the physician services, support staff, offices, medical supplies −− the works. All for seven per cent. If the strategy is looking for a less expensive way of delivering primary health care, I cannot see how this could be achieved. I think it should be looking for inefficiencies in the other 93 per cent of the budget. If the strategy is looking for a way of attracting more physicians into full−service family practice then the answer is easy. No need for a multimillion−dollar program. Federal and provincial governments should start paying for services that have hitherto been delivered for free. The government will have a taste of its own medicine −− feeling like the public does when having to pay for parking in the provincial parks −− not popular, but apparently necessary. Currently, a full−service family physician in British Columbia is not paid for: − Being on call and available 24/7; − Telephone advice; 64

03/02/2006

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