BC asks retired doctors to help if local coronavirus cases reach crisis

Mar 12 2020, 2:50 pm

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of BC is asking recently retired doctors if they’d consider re-instating their qualifications to ease the strain on the health care system if the local COVID-19 outbreak worsens.

“This is the first time in my three-and-a-bit decades [in medicine] that anything like this has ever happened,” said Dr. Heidi Oetter, registrar with the college.

The move follows a request from Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry to use a mechanism called emergency registration, which enables BC to register physicians from other parts of the country in times of crisis.

But other provinces are also dealing with the coronavirus pandemic, which is why the college is reaching out to BC’s own retired doctors, Oetter explained.

“We said hm, we don’t think there’s terribly many doctors in other provinces being underemployed,” she said.

The college is emailing all BC doctors who retired within the last two years. Already, Oetter said there’s been interest.

She was clear the college is asking physicians, not demanding they come back. Because many retired physicians are older, she said it’s important they do “their own risk assessment.”

The college is reinstating doctors in all specialties, not just emergency medicine. As Oetter explained, cancer specialists may need to go into isolation if they’re exposed to COVID-19, and it would be useful to have retired cancer doctors on hand to help.

“It could vary by the circumstance, we’re not being selective,” she said.

BC is not in a health crisis right now, but Oetter said this is one aspect of planning in case of increased load during the coronavirus pandemic.

One the coronavirus emergency is over, the retired doctors would give up their licences once again.

With coronavirus on the rise, BC public health authorities are reminding individuals who attend events and large gatherings to monitor their health for signs and symptoms of COVID-19. And if you’re not feeling well, they recommend staying home at this time. Also, due to unexpected cancellations, please check the event you plan to attend is still taking place. Keep up with COVID-19 news here.