Doctors mingle in a sterile hallway.

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What’s Scaring Off Docs Who Want to Work Here?

Pediatrician who tried to work on the Island calls it a bureaucratic nightmare

Now, Port Alberni will be forced to continue with only one pediatrician

From crazy long wait times to closed emergency rooms, patients are facing huge problems from the lack of doctors and nurses on VanIsle.

But despite Islands Health’s reported best efforts to recruit new workers, the thing that’s stopping doctors from coming and staying is…paperwork?

It might sound trivial. But according to Dr. Alexandra Dionisopoulos, it’s agony. She says the process of getting a license to work here has been bad enough to make her change her mind about working in BC.

“I don’t know if I’ll come back,” Dr. Dionisopoulos told Capital Daily, after a week of working here. “They just make it so hard for me to be here that it’s just not worth the hassle.”

Dionisopoulos knew she wanted to do one of her locums (a placement filling in in understaffed rural hospitals) in Port Alberni back in January. That gave her five months before her July 1st start date to get prepared. However, she wasn’t allowed to start her application until three months before.

Then the application process took three and a half months, which pushed her start date back by two weeks. 

When Dionisopoulos found herself without work for the first two weeks of July, hospitals in New Brunswick got her a license set up in less than a day.

“They offered to organize and pay for and help expedite the New Brunswick license and I got it in less than 24 hours,” Dr. Dionisopoulos said. 

The pediatrician at West Coast General Hospital was also extremely helpful and willing to bring her onboard. But the back-and-forth with the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC) wasn’t nearly so simple.

She was supposed to stay in Port Alberni for four months. But after endless emails and almost $2,000 in application fees, Island Health told her she will only be covered to practice here until the end of August.

“I find this ridiculous…there’s such a big need,” she said. “Every time I go into the [West Coast General] hospital, every healthcare worker I interact with [says], ‘We are in desperate need of a pediatrician. Please, please come.’ And then they just make it so hard for me to be here.”

When asked about why the process took so long CPSBC had this to say.

“Generally speaking, the process for fast-tracking physicians who hold licensure in another Canadian jurisdiction is straightforward and delays may be the result of simple matters such as not receiving appropriate paperwork or payment in a timely matter [sic],” they said in an emailed statement. 

So when things go wrong, blame the person who was organized enough to get their New Brunswick license in one day? That doesn’t sound right.

It sounds like it’s time for a national licensing program, or for BC to start taking notes from New Brunswick.

Dr. Dionisopoulos says unless something changes she won’t come back. That leaves us with one less person to help sick children in need.

Paperwork work vs doctors: it’s 1-0 for the paper.