Penticton Regional Hospital

Local physicians have come up with a prescription for a chronic housing shortage that’s making it difficult to attract locum doctors to Penticton.

Members of the Penticton Medical Staff Association, which represents about 160 doctors who work at Penticton Regional Hospital, are asking local governments to come up with $40,000 in seed funding to secure long-term leases on three housing units they can then rent back to locums at reduced rates.

PMSA president Dr. Brian Forzley told council Tuesday that most locums, who typically fill in for a few weeks at a time during the summer months, struggle to find decent, affordable places to stay, so they often choose to work elsewhere.

“So what this means is when a physician is unable to find a locum, the patients that were booked for that time either have to be cancelled or aren’t booked in the first place,” explained Dr. David Stoll.

“This compounds issues that we have with wait times for both family physicians and specialists. Unfortunately, right now, for some of our specialists we’re measuring in the years for the duration it can be to actually get in to see one.”

A related benefit, continued Forzley, is the locums who are provided temporary housing may then consider making their home permanently in Penticton, where the average age of doctors is currently over 50 and many are planning to retire in the next two to five years.

Council agreed at the end of its meeting Tuesday to put $30,000 towards the initiative. The doctors will also approach the District of Summerland and Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen for $5,000 each.