B.C. has added 160 family doctors since rollout of new payment model, ministry says

It's estimated almost a million British Columbian do not have a family doctor.  (CBC - image credit)
It's estimated almost a million British Columbian do not have a family doctor. (CBC - image credit)

The province says 160 more family doctors have been added in British Columbia in the five weeks since a new physician payment model was rolled out.

Around half of them switched from another area of medicine to family practice, B.C.'s Ministry of Health said.

According to Health Minister Adrian Dix, a total of 2,041 doctors, including the new recruits, have now signed on to the longitudinal family physician (LFP) model.

That equates to almost half of all doctors working in full-service family practice, which is referred to as longitudinal care by medical professionals.

"It's about 46 per cent of those who were longitudinal family doctors last year and billed under fee-for-service," Dix said. "So it's an exceptional change."

The LFP payment model was introduced as an option to the existing fee-for-service model, under which doctors are paid around $30 per patient visit, no matter whether the patient has a simple cold or complex condition.

LFP, on the other hand, compensates doctors for number of patients seen, the complexity of their condition, and for time spent on other necessary tasks like reviewing lab results, consulting with other medical professionals, updating patient lists and clinical administrative work.

Half of the 160 new physicians on the LFP model billed to the Medical Services Plan in 2021-22, which indicates they were under a non-longitudinal model and switched to providing full-service family care, the Ministry of Health said.

The ministry also said as of Feb. 25, 120 new contracts have been signed, along with seven additional expressions of interest, as part of its New to Practice Incentives Program, which offers incentives to physicians who have recently completed their family medicine residency program and wish to provide full-service family care.

Of these 120, 38 are Canadian medical graduates and 82 are international medical graduates, the ministry said.

Positive reviews

Dr. Josh Greggain, president of Doctors of B.C., said early reviews from physicians working under the new model have been overwhelmingly positive.

"This is a great start and the joy that's come back to family medicine ... is critically important," he said.

"The secret sauce of this model is that [doctors] get value and get compensated for the things [they] do, whether that be seeing a patient or managing all of the other things that go along with being a family physician."

Under the new framework, the average family physician in B.C. will see a pay raise from roughly $250,000 annually to around $385,000.

It's estimated that close to one million British Columbians, about one-fifth of the population, are without a family doctor.

Greggain said family physicians who have elected to stay in the fee-for-service model are doing so because it works well for them, or possibly because they're still evaluating whether to make the switch.

"Any time you make any monumental change, not 100 per cent of people are going to jump into that change right away," he said. "The fact that we have nearly 50 per cent is very encouraging."