As a physician actually practising in the North, I take great offence to the letter of Dr Marlene Hunter in the January/February 2003 issue of your journal [BCMJ 2003;45(1):16-19]. I find it distressing that a person who lives and practises in Victoria can write about rural, isolated or northern issues with any credibility. I note from her article that since 1981 or 1982 she has been part of a rota of family doctors who went north for a month every year or so. I really don’t think this entitles her to comment on true practice in the North or in a rural or isolated area. The reason for this is that Dr Hunter has not been involved in recruiting issues, housing issues, CME issues, and so on.
It is quite easy to spend a short period of time in a rural area when all of the day-to-day issues can be delegated to the permanent staff or permanent residents of the area. Long days on call become much simpler when they end after a 30-day period and one returns to the confines of Victoria where there are multiple other physicians to relieve the load.
As a specialist practising in Prince George for the last 81/2 years, my department has been fully staffed for 3 months in that time. We suffer the same northern issues as Dease Lake, Fort Nelson, Port Hardy, and other rural communities. Our patients also suffer the same difficulties in that the physicians and surgeons of this area are unable to provide the necessary services, and patients therefore must relocate for the appropriate treatments. Unfortunately, the road to Quesnel and beyond is worse than the Sea to Sky Highway.
It appalls me that a physician living and working in Victoria thinks that she has the right to comment on northern issues. I would find it much more plausible if this article was written by a physician that actually resided in a community such as Dease Lake.
Unfortunately, I believe that the BC Medical Association has the same understanding of the North as Dr Hunter. I would welcome her to come and practise on a full-time basis in a northern, rural, and isolated area such as Prince George.
If the BC Medical Journal invites articles such as this, perhaps they should have a full-time rural physician writing the article.
—M.M. Moran, MB
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