Program helps doctors take a break

Locums are doctors who assume another doctor’s duties on a temporary basis

A new BC Medical program aims to make it easier for Campbell River doctors to take time off while ensuring their patients still receive quality medical service.

Starting October 1, the joint program between the BC Medical Association and the provincial health ministry will help fund locums for general practitioners who provide anesthesia services for hospitals in Campbell River and other smaller communities.

“One of the toughest things about providing medical services in rural and remote areas is the difficulty in getting away for a break,” said Dr. Shelley Ross, president of the BC Medical Association. “This new locum service will provide general practitioners the opportunity to take time off while making sure the community is not left without anesthesia services.”

The program was announced Wednesday by Ross and Health Minister Dr. Margaret MacDiarmid and will serve communities identified as rural or remote.

It will allow doctors to apply for up to 10 days of locum coverage each year so they can take vacation time or participate in continuing medical education programs.

Locums are doctors who assume another doctor’s duties on a temporary basis.

The Rural General Practitioner Anesthesia Locum Program was developed by a Standing Committee on Rural Issues, an initiative of the B.C. government and BC Medical Association. The committee is committed to developing programs that strengthen rural health care and encouraging doctors to live and practice in rural and remote areas of B.C.

With local anesthesia capability, rural communities have the necessary resources to perform caesarean sections, a variety of other surgical procedures, and some testing and diagnostic services.

“As a family doctor who practiced medicine for many years in rural B.C., I recognize the challenges that rural physicians face,” MacDiarmid said. “This locum program will help support doctors who provide core anesthesia services and at the same time, ensure that families in rural and remote communities have access to the medical services they need. I am proud of the fact that B.C. has some of the most comprehensive funding and incentive programs in Canada to encourage doctors to set up practice and stay in rural B.C.”

Campbell River was selected as an eligible community based on the program criteria of: having a health authority physician supply plan in place requiring this speciality service; having seven or fewer practicing general practitioners with anesthesia training; and being more than 70 kilometres from a major medical centre where either specialists or general practitioners provide similar services.

Eligibility for the program is based, in part, on the number of general practitioners with anesthesia training in a rural or remote community. On the Island, Duncan and Port Alberni are also eligible.

Communities are categorized based on their level of isolation. Physicians providing locum services in the most rural and remote communities are guaranteed a minimum daily rate of up to $1,000 per day.

In addition to providing primary care through community medical practices, general practice physicians eligible for this program have additional training in anesthesia core services and have privileges to practice their enhanced skills in local hospitals.