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$118M in 'stabilization funding' on the way for family doctors in B.C., minister says


The B.C. Ministry of Health and Doctors of B.C. will provide $118 million in "stabilization funding" over four months to help primary-care providers in the province stay open, officials announced Wednesday.

The funds will be distributed from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31, and will give the ministry and the doctors' organization more time to finalize a new payment model that family doctors in the province have been demanding, Health Minister Adrian Dix said at a news conference Wednesday.

"We're working with the Doctors of B.C. to enact transformational, long-term changes to the way primary care is delivered in our province," Dix said.

Doctors have raised the issue of overhead costs for months, if not years. The investment in space, tools, and equipment is a growing expense, according to the Doctors of BC.

Both family doctors who have their own practices and those working in walk-in clinics will receive funding, which the ministry says it expects to go to more than 70 per cent of family doctors working in the province. Dix said there would be no strings attached.

“It reflects overhead but is essentially a direct payment that will go through clinics to all those doctors,” Dix explained.

Of the total, $75 million will come from the Ministry of Health and $43 million will come from the General Practices Services Committee, which is a joint committee of the ministry and Doctors of B.C.

In a letter to physicians issued shortly before the news conference Wednesday, Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh, the president of Doctors of B.C., estimated that the funds would work out to $27,000 per physician, on average, for the four months.

The province says a total of 4,580 doctors will receive funding, 1,100 of them working in walk-in clinics.

Opposition parties are accusing the government of dragging its feet.

Liberal leader Kevin Falcon addressed reporters outside the event. He called Wednesday’s announcement a "timid" step.

“My strong suggestion to Adrian Dix and the NDP is they have to be bolder. Our system is in such a state of crisis that there are a number of other things we can do,” he added.

The Liberals have called on the NDP government to come up with an urgent 30-day plan and outlined several suggestions that could be done quickly. Addressing overhead costs was one of them. Still, Falcon and Green Party leader Sonia Furstenau say more needs to be done. 

In a statement, Furstenau said: “We called for funding to support overhead relief earlier this year. What has taken so long? Far more needs to be done to stop clinics closing, and to ensure people have access to a primary care provider.”

Speaking at the news conference with Dix, Dosanjh described the announcement as "a first step" that will allow for the finalization of the new payment model.

Both leaders said the new model will compensate doctors for their time and the complexity of issues faced by patients. The current payment model compensates doctors on a "fee for service" basis, without incorporating these considerations.

"A new payment model will address rising business costs and also recognize the value of family doctors in the primary-care system," Dosanjh said. "It will also acknowledge the time they spend with their patients, and the complexity involved in providing this type of longitudinal care."

About 20 per cent of people in B.C. don't have a family doctor and officials from Doctors of B.C. have previously said the province isn't "adequately serviced right now."

Earlier this month, Dr. Josh Greggain told CTV Morning Live he's hearing two main things from his colleagues in the field. 

"The first one is people are burnt out, tired, it's the long pandemic," he said. "Secondarily it's really around value. What is my time valued as? How can I provide the service to the patients that I'm able to and how can we continue to provide more service to the patients who are currently unattached, that don't have access to care."

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Alyse Kotyk Top Stories

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