When a significant number of patients locally and across the province are having a difficult time finding a family physician, something has gone wrong.
Provincewide, an estimated 200,000 British Columbians are without a family physician, according to provincial government figures from 2013.
That number alone should be cause for concern.
This is not a problem limited to one community or one region. It’s happening throughout our province.
Patients in too many regions have similar experiences and frustrations as they try to find doctors who are accepting patients.
Those without a family doctor can still get medical help at walk-in clinics, emergency rooms and after-hours facilities.
However, these are not an adequate substitute for a family doctor, especially if a patient has recurring health issues or a chronic medical condition.
In the South Okanagan Similkameen, efforts are being made to address the shortage of doctors, including a residency program for new medical graduates.
Some new doctors have also set up in the region. This helps to offset the effects from aging doctors retiring or reducing their hours.
We applaud these efforts, and we appreciate those who have chosen to set up their practices here.
However, the Okanagan Valley has a growing population and an aging population.
Both these factors will put pressure on health care in the region.
A growing population will require more doctors, and as people age, their health care needs tend to increase.
We have a good quality of health care in British Columbia.
The challenge now is to ensure there is easy access to health care, for all of us.