Losing family doctors to misguided early retirement

Issue: BCMJ, vol. 59, No. 7, September 2017, Pages 346-347 Letters

In my city as elsewhere in this province we have thousands of people who cannot find a family doctor.

In my city as elsewhere in this province we have thousands of people who cannot find a family doctor. Walk-in clinics cannot find doctors to work shifts and have shortened their hours or closed. On the other hand, there are several perfectly healthy and experienced family doctors who have retired prematurely in my city and who regret their actions. These doctors retired in their early- or mid-50s or early-60s and managed by sheer luck to find relocating doctors to replace them.

Why did they retire so early? One of them was caring for an elderly parent with dementia who was placed in a nursing home and then passed away. Another solo family doctor was feeling overwhelmed with paper medical records. The doctor was not aware of the tremendous help offered by an EMR with a Dragon voice-activated dictating system and would not have retired so soon had they known about it. Another was hoping to spend more time with his grandchildren and his horses on his farm but such activities rarely occupy 8 hours per day.

There are perhaps many such stories. Closing or giving away your practice is such a life-changing decision that it cannot be made lightly and can never be reversed.

Most doctors who retire promise, usually in writing, not to open another medical practice in the same city. So they try to keep working part-time by doing locums and find this work unrewarding. They do not know the patients, the office, or the staff, and it is either too busy or too quiet. Perhaps they try working walk-in clinic shifts. That is even worse as it is very stressful, too busy with either severe problems or frivolous ones, and includes tiring evening shifts. So soon these doctors give up and retire fully.

So here they are, in their late-50s or early-60s or even late-60s in great shape as they go to the gym, mentally sharp, full of knowledge and life experience. They are out of medicine with no return. Is this scenario common? Do we have a hidden source of family doctors being discarded prematurely? This is worth exploring.

From a doctor not retiring any time soon.
—Lianne Lacroix, MD

. Losing family doctors to misguided early retirement. BCMJ, Vol. 59, No. 7, September, 2017, Page(s) 346-347 - Letters.

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