Cariboo Memorial Hospital in Williams Lake is among B.C. hospitals preparing for coronavirus patients. (Black Press files)

Retired B.C. doctors standing by to help with coronavirus response

College calls on physician retirees to activate their licences

The B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons is getting good response from recently retired doctors, as it asks them to consider returning to work if a potential surge of COVID-19 coronavirus patients requires them.

College registrar Dr. Heidi Oetter told CFAX radio in Victoria Friday that about 100 doctors have been contacted so far, and more than 20 have indicated they would be willing to return if needed. The college is preparing to activate their licences on an emergency basis if their regional health authority indicates there is a need.

The college has never taken this step before, but decided to do it with a chronic shortage of family doctors in B.C. and pressure on walk-in clinics that have a cap on their daily visits since the coronavirus became a world-wide concern.

Oetter said the college is contacting physicians who have retired within the past two years, since it generally requires physicians to be active within three years to keep their skills current.

RELATED: U.S. declares national emergency over coronavirus

RELATED: Health ministry bans large gatherings in B.C.

Health Minister Adrian Dix said phone calls to B.C.’s 8-1-1 HealthLinkBC information line have surged to thousands a day, and additional staff are being added to handle public requests for information about coronavirus and other ailments.

Oetter said the announcement this week by the B.C. health ministry that all travellers from outside Canada should self-isolate for 14 days upon their return is another concern. Doctors are among those holidaying at this time of year in U.S., Mexico and other sun destinations, and some would have left before the warning, leaving them in quarantine.

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry recommended Thursday that all travel outside Canada be postponed as B.C. deals with a mounting number of cases. Seven additional cases were announced Thursday, bringing the B.C. total to 53, mostly in the Lower Mainland.


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