Decline in specialty care is ‘soul-destroying,’ say BC medical specialists in open letter

A group of more than two dozen medical specialists has penned an open letter to BC Health Minister Adrian Dix, describing what they call a dire situation in the province for patients in need of specialist care.

“Our entire health care system is crumbling, but not enough is being done to improve specialist patient outcomes or shorten our overcrowded waitlists,” the letter reads.

The group — which includes cardiologists, respirologists and radiologists, among others — estimates that one million patients in BC are waiting to see a specialist.

“We see the decline in specialist care first hand every day and we are exhausted and demoralized; it is soul-destroying to be unable to provide the specialty care that BC patients need and deserve,” the letter reads.

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Dr. Chris Hoag, a urologic surgeon in North Vancouver and president of the Consultant Specialists of BC, said the strongly-worded letter reflects the emotions felt by colleagues as patients in need of care languish on waitlists.

The letter says more than 16,000 people in Vancouver Coastal Health are waiting for an echocardiogram, a procedure assessing the heart’s structures and functions.

In the Lower Mainland and Vancouver Island, patients recently diagnosed with cancer face waits of two to three months before a first visit to an oncologist.

“We talk about moral distress. This is what moral distress is,” Hoag said.

Hoag says the group would like to meet with Dix to discuss possible solutions.

Last month, Dix announced $118 million in interim funding Wednesday to support family doctors in the province. Hoag says specialist care in the province is also in need of attention.

“We need to start investing in specialty care in the same way the government has found the will to invest in primary care,” he said, adding that more needs to be done to train new specialists and retain the ones already working in the province.

Dix declined to comment to CBC News, but his office says it’s aware of the letter and will always meet with doctors with concerns.

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