Patients seeing Kamloops’ two dermatologists may soon need a cheque book in addition to an appointment.
Drs. Chris Sladden and Dick Lewis have both filed paperwork to de-enrol from the medical services plan by the end of the month. A government representative said Friday it will not stand in the way of the move.
Once they are de-enrolled Lewis and Sladden cannot bill medical services plan for any procedures. They will either charge patients directly or work from private medical coverage they may have.
“My MSP practice in Kamloops ceases at the end of the month,” said Sladden, who along with Lewis represents half the dermatologists practicing in Interior Health Authority.
“I may see private patients in Kamloops. Dr. Lewis is doing the same thing.”
At root of the de-enrolment is unhappiness by dermatologists in this province with the pay structure negotiated by the B.C. Medical Association.
De-enrolment is a drastic move because it takes 12 months to reapply.
Ministry spokeswoman Kristy Anderson said there are only two other de-enrolled physicians in B.C. Some specialties, orthopedics for example, can bill WorkSafeBC or private automobile insurance companies.
Sladden, who first practised in Canada as a family physician in Clearwater before doing a residency in dermatology, acknowledged there is uncertainty ahead.
According to government figures, full-time dermatologists in B.C. billed MSP an average of $440,000.
But Sladden said some of his colleagues see 70 to 80 patients a day and do cosmetic work to bolster income.
“That’s not how I practise.”
He added he has high overhead costs, including two office staff as well as equipment to undertake procedures.
After shutting his public practice at the end of the month, Sladden said he plans to go to the Maritimes to do locum work for a month. He will be paid for flights and provided accommodation and a stipend for food.
“To boot, the fee structure is twice what it is here.”
While his family is established in Kamloops, Sladden said he hasn’t ruled out moving east.
Anderson said there is $20 million within a new agreement between the province and BCMA to address specialists, including dermatologists. An independent adjudicator has been appointed to address disparities between specialties or provinces.
But Sladden said he has no reserve of trust.
“There’s been money promised to dermatologists, but every time it’s denied,” Sladden said. “My concern is that will carry on.”