Dermatologist shortage felt all over B.C.

A problem that became all-too obvious in Kamloops during the past several years is now registering across B.C.

The complaints of Drs. Dick Lewis and Chris Sladden have been well documented in The Daily News. The pair no longer practise in Kamloops, at least through the Medical Services Plan.

Their names hit the front page of the Vancouver Sun on Thursday in a story about the flight of dermatologists to other provinces, many lured by higher fees.

Dr. Lewis remains in Kamloops, but has chosen to de-enrol from MSP. He continues to treat patients here privately.

There are only 60 dermatologists remaining in B.C., according to the Sun story. Aside from Lewis's non-MSP practice, there are no dermatologists practising between Kamloops and Prince George, due to a pending retirement in the northern city.

This is particularly troublesome because dermatologists are the second, expert line of screening for skin cancer behind family doctors.

Dermatologists complain the fee schedule in B.C. is far lower than in other provinces.

Dr. Sladden, a former family physician in Clearwater, continues to live in Kamloops but practises in Newfoundland for half a month, earning far more than in B.C.

This is not an easy fix for government, however, due to shortages in the specialty and the way physicians are compensated in B.C. In this province, the physicians' bargaining agent - B.C. Medical Association - sets the fee schedule.

Dermatologists are not the only specialty in B.C. that complains about the way they are rewarded through BCMA's schedule - witness last year's threatened withdrawal of service by anesthetists.

The BCMA has said it is aware of the dermatologists' issue and is referring it to a tariff committee.

Even if fees are increased, a shortage of qualified specialists remains. There appears to be no quick solution, a familiar refrain in a city with a shortage of family physicians going on 15 years.

© Copyright 2018 Kamloops Daily News

Popular Editorial