A GP for Me program aims to help you find a family doctor in B.C.

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      Finding a family doctor may not be a top priority for everyone—but for those in need, the search can be daunting.

      In Vancouver, it is estimated that over 100,000 people don’t have a family doctor and about 24,000 are actively looking for one, according to the Vancouver Division of Family Practice.

      Until recently, Roanna Zee was one of those people on the hunt.

      “New people do have difficulty finding a doctor,” she said.

      When Zee moved to the city just over six years ago, she immediately started looking for a doctor. But finding one proved to be a greater challenge than she expected.

      She lowered her expectations for finding a doctor close to her East Vancouver home and broadened her search. Despite her efforts, she didn’t find a doctor until a few months ago—and it was thanks to sheer luck. “The doctor I found, the name surfaced on Twitter of all places,” Zee said. “Somebody mentioned so-and-so is taking new patients and I called immediately to make an appointment.”

      This type of long-term search for a family doctor is being addressed by the General Practice Services Committee (GPSC), a group of B.C. physicians and Ministry of Health officials that aims to improve health care for doctors and patients.

      The committee launched a provincewide program, A GP for Me, earlier this year to help residents connect with a family doctor or consistent general practitioner. The Vancouver division of the program is currently conducting surveys to understand what barriers residents experience while finding a doctor.

      The concern isn’t simply that thousands of people are looking for a doctor, but the long-term problems not having a consistent doctor creates. “There is good evidence to show that if you’re attached to a family doctor you have better health,” said Dr. Shelley Ross, chair of the GPSC. “There is a lot of repeating of the same thing if no one knows what’s been done before.”

      Map: Doctors accepting new patients in Vancouver, according to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.

      The lack of consistent medical care proved to be detrimental to Zee’s health.

      During her six-year hunt for a doctor, Zee experienced symptoms similar to celiac disease, a condition that causes intolerance to gluten.

      Tests and check-ups performed at varying clinics—depending on where she could book appointments—were not providing her with a definite diagnosis.“Walk-ins are great but that’s not any way of addressing a long-term health issue,” she said.

      Without a clear diagnosis from a doctor, Zee said she took on what she calls a “self-care” approach of researching symptoms online and restricting her diet. Now that she has finally found a family doctor, she hopes she’ll be provided with more effective, non-pharmaceutical approaches to treating symptoms.

      While Zee’s health challenges may not be incredibly common, the need for consistent medical care applies to anyone regardless of their health. Ross said everyone should have a “medical home” that they always visit and keeps track of their medical records.

      Having a medical home means doctors can monitor and catch health problems before they become serious. It also fosters a relationship in which patients are comfortable speaking about their concerns, Ross said. For those uninterested in finding a family doctor, a walk-in clinic can serve as a medical home as long as it’s consistently visited.

      “It’s the continuity of care that we’re concerned about,” she said.

      Currently, anyone looking for a family doctor can either search an online list of those accepting patients through the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. or ask for referrals through friends and family. Neither method is guaranteed to be successful because the online list isn’t always up to date and many doctors are over capacity.

      A GP for Me Vancouver is still in the early stages of developing a plan to improve access to doctors in the city over the next three years. But in the White Rock-South Surrey area, where a pilot version of the program was launched in 2010, the results have been promising.

      “It’s been an evolution over several years,” said Dr. Brenda Hefford, a general practitioner who helped launch A GP for Me in that area.

      Through the program, seven new doctors were recruited to the community, a clinic was opened for those needing urgent care and who don’t have a regular doctor, and a hotline was set up to connect residents with doctors who are accepting new patients.

      While a shortage of doctors may be part of the problem, recruiting is not always the best or most viable solution for every community. Both Hefford and Ross said other changes within existing clinics such as bringing in nurses to support doctors, integrating technological solutions, and allowing for phone consultations can improve access for patients.

      The goal is to provide patients with preventative and timely care, Ross said.



      Stephanie Kennery

      Mar 5, 2015 at 7:38pm

      My brother was just discharged from hospital suffering from Influenza A and acute Bronciolitis. He has been on the hunt for a family doctor for years. He has lived in BC most of his life and works for the Prisons of BC. The BC College of Physicians and Surgeons DO NOT UPDATE their lists of available physicians. My brother is recovering at home on oxygen and this would have all been prevented had he had a family doctor of his own. He has exhausted his friends and family for referrals. Now he will require continue monitoring, but his care although excellent will be patchwork at best. Please advise if you have any suggestions for the Eagle Ridge/Royal Columbian area for physicians accepting new patients. Thank you. My email is

      In Search of Family Doctor

      Apr 24, 2015 at 1:26pm

      Sorry but this GP for me Program is a joke!Total waste of public money. At least someone earn money to make the website. No statistics how many people got connected with doctors accepting new patients . No results of the survey "they've been focusing most of they time. Bunch of free event while there are people in a serious need to find a doctor. Vancouver is growing and this problem will be growing. Coordinators of this SCAM GP FOR ME thing didn't even bother to ask real question what to do with all those experienced medical professionals immigrating to Canada for better life who struggle to open their own practice because their expertise doesn't count here. For instance how come doctors can easily migrate between countries in Europe while they are not "good enough' for Canada? I guess politics is the only answer because there no logic or interest in patients health.

      Mr. Eliezer Dvir

      Aug 9, 2015 at 10:40pm

      I am an admitted case of deliberate and intentional surgical malpractice ("I used you as a surgical experiment!!" This was in April, 1095 in Jerusalem, Israel. As a result of his abuse, I almost died two weeks post-surgically (fever = 44.9C/104.9F). Because I was exhibiting signs of serious illness, but was undiagnosed because there was NO diagnosis for this disease until about 2012, and no one bothered to inform me, of course, and I went undiagnosed until June of 2012, and have not had ANY reasonable care since that time, and have been told basically to simply drop dead, almost. I truly have NO idea as to how and where to obtain care, since every doctors office I have contacted have told me that they want nothing to do with a patient in my condition (Hepatitis "C" since April, 1985. I do not know what to do any more, and given the degree of my worsening illness and the agony with which I am forced to deal with (since NO doctors will give me the medications I am in truly desperate need of to control the problem.
      What am I to do???? I truly do not know, since literally every person with whom I have attempted to deal with has simply told me: "Talk to the B.C.C.P.S." I have gotten listing of the doctors accepting now patients they sent me and none of them want to accept me, either.
      The Israeli 'embassy' in Ottawa refuses to communicate with me and has in fact told me to NOT contact them in ANY way whatever, and even the P.M. of Israel has issued a proclamation recently stating that any patient with Hep.C., even if infected in Israel with transfused blood, WILL NOT BE ALLOWED TO RETURN HOME (to Israel), which is exactly my own situation. His offices refuse to answer any of my emails and it is clear that, like the Germans did from 1939 until 1945, Israel is allowing the lives of their own victims to simply be denied and curtailed. What am I to do? There is, quite frankly, no answer to that question, and I simply (I am 68 years old and forced to 'live' in housing where the residential staff are also abusing me both verbally and physically, and some of the tenants are so filthy that they are spreading bedbugs to a lot of other residents apartments, and even though I so horribly ill, the 'staff' of this residence is refusing to assist me in obtaining a replacement bed for the infested garbage, and even my sofa is infested. leslieeuper@gmail.com