When Vancouver family physician Dr Jean Clark and her partner Dr Catherine Reilkoff wanted to retire after they’d worked together for more than 30 years, they were uncertain about next steps. Like many physicians planning to retire, they had a lot of questions about how to make the transition, and they worried about leaving their 3,000 patients without a doctor.
In response to these kinds of challenges, the Vancouver Division of Family Practice developed a support program for retiring doctors which proved to be a big help for Drs Clark and Reilkoff. The Division not only provided one-on-one counselling and advice around planning, it helped convert their records, and supported the transition of patients from the practice to four different GPs, which gave the physicians great peace of mind. “Everything else was icing, but that was the cake,” says Dr. Clark.
Now doctors around the province can benefit from the division’s “How to Retire Guide” which provides guidance about how to close a practice, leave an office, find a GP who’s accepting new patients and transfer patients. It includes a practice information workbook and take-over guide. Other divisions are able to use the guide in addition to their own tools and approaches, to support their retiring doctors and their patients.
Recently retired physician Laurie Martz also appreciated the Vancouver Division's assistance when she decided to leave her practice. The support helped to relieve anxiety among patients – many of whom she had known for more than thirty years – because her transition out of practice ended with a ‘plan and not a precipice.’
“There’s a lot an anxiety and pressure on physicians to stay on because there is no capacity for accepting patients,” says Rose Gidzinski, the Division’s Project Implementation Manager for A GP for Me, a provincial initiative of the Government of BC and Doctors of BC. “We want to change the culture around retirement.”
Ms. Gidzinski says that the further out doctors can think about and make plans for retirement, the smoother it will go for the GP as well as patients. With a “longer runway” to plan, the Division team can help support the significant challenge of matching as many patients as possible with new doctors.
As one approach to achieve this, the Division is actively engaging new-to-practice, young physicians with planning and business supports so they can more easily set up practices within in a group setting and take on the retiring physician’s patients.
“The retirement of a family doctor is a stressful time for patients too,” adds Ms Gidzinski. It’s that fear of the unknown. If we can pass them onto care while they are still able to see their retiring physician, it can ease some of that fear. They know they will be well-cared for by the next doctor.”
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Video > Dr. Laurie Martz discusses Vancouver Division' support for her retirement
Video > Dr Laurie Martz: Planning provides relief for patients
Download > “How to retire” guide