BC Family Doctor Dayis May 19, recognizing the work of more than 6,000 family doctors who practice in communities across the province.
Dr. Gareth Evans, a Powell River family practitioner, is flourishing in his calling, delivering services to his patients, even in these uncharted times due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“With family practice in general, we would see our role as being the primary touchpoint of most patients with the health-care system, and trying to help coordinate everyone’s care, whether or not that that includes other specialists or services,” said Evans. “More than ever during the pandemic people feel a little bit disconnected and stuck at home, or out of their usual routines. We are trying to remain available as best we can.”
Evans said the onset of COVID-19 has resulted in a big change in the way family physicians conduct business.
“We are adapting week by week in terms of what our processes are,” said Evans. “What I would most want people in the community to know is if they have a family doctor, that person can likely be reached quite readily by phone. We are increasingly able to see people as needed in person after appropriate screening.
“There’s a perception out there that we are not open for business and that is not really the case. We are seeing most people through video visits or phone calls but we are still seeing people as well in the clinic.”
Evans said the adaptation process in the COVID-19 era has been challenging in terms of trying to appropriately manage conditions over the phone. Physicians are often having to make decisions about what is the safest thing to do in terms of whether they bring somebody into the clinic.
“It’s a little bit different than the way we used to do things,” said Evans. “We do a little more investigation and do things a little more thoroughly before we decide how we are going to treat.
“The big concern we have, particularly now that it’s been a couple of months of this pandemic state, is that the usual run-of-the-mill concerns may be falling by the wayside as people are afraid to seek care. We want to make sure we are doing our best to keep on top of the routine screening and treatment of issues as they arise in a timely fashion.”
Evans said he wanted to encourage patients to stay in touch with their health-care providers.
“Don’t be a stranger,” he said. “Patients who don’t have respiratory or flu-like symptoms, we can see them.”
Evans said in terms of becoming a family practitioner, what he liked all along in his medical training was the long-term relationships that can be developed with patients, and the breadth and variety of different things he gets to do as a family doctor.
“Right from the first clinical experience in medical school, where they send you out into a small town for a month and you get to shadow a family doctor, it becomes apparent, particularly in a rural setting, that family doctors know a lot about their communities and their patients over time,” he added. “It’s attractive in being able to practice good medicine and also getting the satisfaction of getting to know people. You can be brought into their health-care story, if you will.”
Evans said he thinks it’s always rewarding when he gets to know a patient and gets them opening up a little bit.
“You develop a level of trust where you can help them achieve the kinds of changes they are looking for; it’s kind of a team-based approach,” said Evans. “That’s very rewarding.
“I also find a lot of enjoyment in the variety of things I get to do, in particular, delivering babies, assisting in surgeries, or taking care of people at the end of life. There is just such a scope of what you get to do and that keeps it interesting. It’s sometimes tiring, but it is enjoyable, like you’ve made a difference.”
His practice is varied, ranging from young children to new moms and a good number of elderly patients. He finds Powell River a great community in which to practice medicine.
“I had no hesitation settling down here,” he said. “It’s a really nice community to live in and the medical community is very supportive. I always feel like I have a good backup. If I’m working in the emergency department, we have great specialists who help us.
“I’m also quite grateful to the doctors’ committee that is working on COVID-19 response. There have been a lot of extra hours put in by some individuals in town, working hard to get everything prepared. So far, we haven’t had to deal with crises in that regard. We’ve taken all of the measures to be ready, so I appreciate those who have taken the lead on this.”
Evans said he feels lucky when he looks around at the community he lives in and the kind of work he gets to do here.
“It’s a great place to live, a really nice place to raise a family and an excellent place to practice medicine,” said Evans.
He said he encourages people who don’t have a family doctor to seek one out.
“We have pretty good evidence that having regular contact with a primary health-care provider that you learn to trust over time improves health outcomes,” said Evans, “and there are doctors accepting new patients right now.”