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Chilliwack attracting family physicians

Chilliwack is suddenly becoming a hot destination for family doctors.

A new general practitioner (GP) recruitment group that was formed last fall has already brought in five new family physicians to Chilliwack, and has five more interested.

A GP for Me is a joint program of the provincial government and Doctors of B.C. aimed at strengthening health care by helping residents obtain family physicians if they so desire.

But first, there needs to be doctors.

Fourteen per cent of British Columbians do not have a family physician; seven per cent in Chilliwack.

Largely in part due to availability.

In the Fraser East, approximately one in five doctors are not taking new patients, and another 64 per cent are only taking new patients under specific circumstances.

The Chilliwack Division of Family Practice is working to change that.

The organization has partnered with Chilliwack Economic Partners Corporation (CEPCO) to put Chilliwack's best foot forward with prospective physicians.

Doctors get the hospital tour from the division, and the city tour from CEPCO.

They're toured through residential neighbourhoods, are informed about local schools, and the various amenities the city has to offer.

"They're being shown what the community is actually like," said Dr. Melanie Madill, lead physician with the initiative. "In the past, it's been up to one or two individuals to pick up the ball … and now what we have is a whole community working together.

"That makes a difference."

For CEPCO, it's a no brainer.

A lot of people don't connect health care with business, but it's an important aspect, said Brian Coombes, CEPCO executive director.

"When you look at economic development and quality of life, knowing that you can find a family doctor and that you can get care in your own community, those are really important considerations when a business is looking at relocating to a community," said Coombes.

So when a prospective physician comes to town, CEPCO makes sure it's "that friendly face for the community."

The Chilliwack Division of Family Practice has also made a cognizant effort to match prospective physicians to vacant practices that cater to their skill sets and interests.

Although there hasn't yet been a surge of new practices, the division believes it's only a matter of time.

"We have not yet added to our net number beyond one or two, but we have a lot of people in the wings asking to come, or who have already made plans to come," said Madill.

The physician recruitment group is an offshoot of the A GP for Me initiative.

kbartel@theprogress.com

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