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‘I’m approaching a breaking point’: South Surrey doctor writes

Dr. Tahmeena Ali says physicians’ workload growing beyond ability to cope

A South Surrey physician says she is on the brink of closing her clinic’s doors permanently, citing an ever-growing workload and no relief in sight.

“I am on the brink of quitting every single day,” Dr. Tahmeena Ali writes in an April 13 email to Peace Arch News.

“Last week, I contemplated taping a sign to the front of my clinic door. It would read: “I regret to inform you that the clinic is now permanently closed. You will have to find a new family physician.”

Ali has been a doctor on the Semiahmoo Peninsula for the past decade, and a practising physician for 20 years.

In 2020, she was among doctors recognized with B.C.’s Family Physician of the Year, receiving the Reg L. Perkin Award, bestowed for “outstanding achievements.”

READ MORE: South Surrey family doctor recognized with national award

A bio shared online at the time noted Ali is “particularly passionate about mitigating the trauma illness inflicts on her patients and those around them.”

In her April 13 email to PAN, she said she is “approaching a breaking point.”

“Every day, the demands for more appointments, to take on more patients, to fill out more forms grow and grow,” she writes.

“I cannot work any harder than I already am.”

Ali noted that 40 per cent of British Columbians are worried they will lose their family physician, “and they should be.”

Earlier this year, officials with the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants said the pandemic and the opioid crisis have highlighted doctor shortages in the province, and that physician assistants could be one solution.

The association has enough members to supply approximately 90,000 people in B.C. with a primary care provider, the organization’s B.C. director said, noting physician assistants “can do about 70 per cent of what a family doctor can do.”

READ MORE: Physician assistants could fill part of B.C.’s need for more doctors: advocates

However, the provincial government said that despite the strains on the system, adding the new position wasn’t part of its plans. A statement issued in February notes that physician assistants would not fill a role that nurse practitioners and associate physicians aren’t already filling.

Ali did not suggest a particular solution, only that the status quo isn’t working.

“I am tired of managing referrals and navigating the complex system to advocate for my patients who deserve better.

“Something has to change or tomorrow might be the day when I tape that sign to my front door.”

– with files from Canadian Press
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Tracy Holmes

About the Author: Tracy Holmes

Tracy Holmes has been a reporter with Peace Arch News since 1997.
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