OUR VIEW: Doctors are retiring too

Attracting new doctors to the Saanich Peninsula is certainly a daunting task facing the medical establishment in the wake of a shortage.

Attracting new, young doctors to the Saanich Peninsula is certainly a daunting task facing the local medical establishment in the wake of a shortage.

It must be considered that the local plight has been at least partially caused by the province’s focus on getting more doctors to practice in rural communities.

In recent years, there have been incentives on offer to new graduates from medical school to locate in more remote communities, as those parts of the province have for years been struggling with a chronic lack of physicians. When the province established its incentive program to help fill those voids, it was generally hailed as one solution to that problem.

An unforeseen consequence has apparently reared its head on the Peninsula. As doctors here look to retire, finding a replacement has proven to be excessively difficult. So much so that the Saanich Peninsula Hospital and its Foundation are forced to find ways of attracting new doctors.

They are asking local municipalities to get on board and while that’s a good idea, it might only serve to act as increased lobbying pressure on the provincial government, the body responsible for health care in B.C.

The need for communities and their hospitals and clinics to find new doctors as existing professionals near retirement is a serious issue. On the Saanich Peninsula, an aging demographic means a potentially heavy workload on local physicians. Hence the idea of creating space for larger clinics of multiple doctors is a good idea as many hands make the load lighter.

The problem is, finding all of those hands.

Whether it’s local governments offering their own incentives for doctors to set up shop or the province eases up on the pressure for new doctors to head into the interior, there are steps that need to be taken before some of the area’s longtime physicians decide its time to hang up the stethoscope — with or without adequate replacement.