Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Doctor's Advice in B.C. Is a Phone Call Away as Government Pays $15 per Call

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Doctor's Advice in B.C. Is a Phone Call Away as Government Pays $15 per Call

Article excerpt

Doctor's help in B.C. just a phone call away

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VANCOUVER - It's almost as good as a house call.

The British Columbia government will soon be paying doctors to take telephone calls from their patients.

The province will allow doctors to bill $15 per call, to a maximum of 500 each year starting April 1, as part of its grander scheme to match all patients with a family doctor who want one by 2015.

B.C.'s health minister said Friday that compensating doctors for phone calls will dial down their workloads and help free them up to see more patients at the office, but it's just one piece of the plan to keep costs in check as the government strives to balance the budget.

"The doctors involved in this initiative don't feel burdened, they feel a burden is lifted off their shoulders," Margaret MacDiarmid told reporters at the funding announcement in Vancouver.

The latest B.C. budget released Tuesday said health care costs are nearing half the province's total expenses and the government believes programs that incur costs up-front will reduce the need for more expensive care down the line.

About 176,000 British Columbians do not have a family doctor.

MacDiarmid said the government is adding another $24 million to a $132 million package within the province's physician master agreement to expand a pilot program that has helped 9,400 people find family doctors over the past two years.

The funding will be divvied up into several initiatives meant to work as incentives for doctors to take new patients and to make the system more efficient.

Doctors will be paid $200 for accepting each new patient who has serious health conditions, such as cancer, severe disabilities, maternity needs and mental health and substance use problems.

Another $135 per patient will be paid for doctors who must develop long-term care plans for patients with such complex conditions.

They'll be paid $40 for 15-minute patient conference calls, up to three hours per person annually, in which they can co-ordinate health planning with other specialists.

Millions of more dollars will be distributed to family practice groups, who will be encouraged to decide amongst themselves if the cash should go towards recruiting more doctors in their communities, or paying for other health care providers such as nurses. …

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