$118 million announced for BC family doctors as part of transition to new payment model
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced the province will invest $118 million in bridge funding to support family physicians as the province and physicians work to develop a new model of remuneration.
Dix was with Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh, President of Doctors of BC on August 24. The bridge funding will help physicians cover overhead costs to maintain their existing family practices. Dix said the funding will “stabilize” BC’s primary care system while long-term solutions are developed.
“Today’s announcement is a first step in helping family physicians keep their doors open to patients until we can develop and implement a new payment model,” Dosanjh said. “We have heard loud and clear from our doctors that this is a much needed step that we cannot allow clinic closures to continue at the rate they have been.”
Dosanjh added that negotiations around a new compensation model for doctors will take place over the next four months.
Funding will be in place for physicians who provide ongoing services to their patients and pay overhead. Additionally, primary care clinics, including walk-in clinics, that commit to staying open and maintaining consistent hours of operation can apply for funding on behalf of the clinic and the physicians who work there. The funds will cover the period from October 1, 2022 to January 31, 2023.
The funding includes $75 million from the Ministry of Health and $43 million from the General Practices Services Committee, a collaborative committee co-chaired by the Ministry of Health and BC physicians.
British Columbia’s current fee-for-service model has created financial barriers for physicians wishing to practice family medicine. Physicians currently only receive $30 per patient, regardless of the complexity of the health care needs.
The new payment model will likely be based on the time doctors spend with patients.
Dix said steps are also underway to support and improve patient access to primary care. British Columbia will work to recruit and retain family physicians and increase its training capacity.
“These actions are underway and progress is being made. We will report on our achievements as they are ready to launch.
Patient access must come first, expert says
Dr. Rita McCracken, a family physician and assistant professor of medicine at UBC, said efforts to increase family physician compensation are well-intentioned, but patient access to primary care must be central British Columbia’s approach to solving the doctor shortage. .
As for the bridge funding, McCracken said it’s doing little to address the issues facing BC’s primary care system.
“Let’s imagine our public school system was in the same state as primary care where there were a million children who couldn’t get to schools, teachers were leaving and closing their schools, and we decided to give every teacher $30,000. You can see what kind of solution we could get if a few teachers stop actively thinking about quitting smoking, but that doesn’t solve the problem of all those kids who don’t have access to school. And we have the same problem with primary care.
McCracken said the primary care model is outdated and should focus more on integrated health teams rather than just focusing on physicians.
“The gold standard of primary care is teamwork, which isn’t just a doctor sending a prescription to a pharmacist in a community pharmacy. It is a fully integrated clinic where you have various other medical professionals who provide direct patient care and reduce the time constraints of the doctor so that he can see the patient and do the treatment.