By CARMEN WELD
If you have an odd-looking mole, a skin-cancer concern or a bad rash and need an expert opinion, you're going to have to wait a long time to get one.
Dermatologists are in short supply in B.C., with wait lists for some being longer than a year.
Following Dr. Russel B. Harris's retirement in Penticton in January, Kelowna dermatologist, Dr. Carmel Anderson, became the only dermatologist east of the Lower Mainland in B.C.
“Prince George used to have a dermatologist, Kamloops had two, Vernon had one, Penticton had one and we had one, and now there is only me,” said Anderson. “We are getting 30-40 new referrals a day.”
She notes one dermatologist does practise in Kamloops, Dr. Richard Lewis, but he does not work in the public system and patients have to pay for his services.
This lack of doctors has forced her to send a letter to family doctors around the area telling them she has cut off acceptance of any new patients.
“I will always take in emergencies and have emergencies every day, but elective patients and referrals will wait. I will open my office up once we get caught up, but we are booking next May in our office, just for an appointment,” said Anderson.
“There are days I feel overwhelmed. I don't just work at my office, I lecture at the medical school, teach the medical students in my office and do Internet consults.”
While only one dermatologist exists east of the Lower Mainland, the options west are also limited.
Dr. Evert Tuyp, president of the BC Section of Dermatology and dermatologist in Coquitlam, said the situation is critical.
“It's an awful mess,” said Tuyp. “There is a need for four more dermatologist in Surrey, a need in Chilliwack, in Abbotsford, Coquitlam, Langley, posting for three jobs in Richmond, four postings in Victoria. It is an issue everywhere.”
Tuyp said, like Anderson, his wait list is also more than six months.
“There was someone in Nanaimo who used to have a wait list of more than 18 months, there is someone in Langley with a wait list of more than a year.”
A major part of the problem, according to both doctors, is the recruitment of new dermatologist. They say dermatologists in B.C. are paid less than anywhere else in Canada, which makes recruitment difficult.
Numbers provided by Dr. Tuyp show initial consult fees to see a dermatologist range from about $68.26 per patient in B.C. to $125.84 per patient in Nova Scotia.
A dermatologist who does an emergency room visit in B.C. gets $92.79, versus an Ontario dermatologist who will get $223.70.
“We have tried to recruit dermatologists, and we have a number who said they are coming. They get out here to look at real estate and then see the fee schedule and they decide not to come,” said Anderson.
Anderson said those with new referrals to see a dermatologist will either have to wait until her office reopens, go to Vancouver or Calgary or pay in Kamloops.