Ontario docs are leaving – patients have trouble finding good doctors





Did BCMA do enough to try to defray med records storage costs?

Limitation Act change means some doctors will be paying to store records until they are 100
Written by Dr. John O’Brien-Bell on August 20, 2013 for The Medical Post

On June 1 the British Columbia government extended to 15 years from seven the time in which British Columbians could litigate against B.C. physicians. As a result, the College of Physicans and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC) extended to 16 years the time period that B.C. physicians are required to retain patient charts and records. In the case of minors, the 16-year time period for retention of charts and records does not start until the minor reaches the age of majority.



Dr. John O’Brien-Bell

A doctor retiring at 65 with a requirement to hold the records for 16 years could be 81 when the burden is lifted. Should a patient have been a newborn seen close to the doctors’ retirement date, the 16 years does not start until the infant is 18, so the doctor could be 100 years old and still liable!



In 2004 I retired from Sandell Medical after 38 years of practice. I stored my 52 boxes of medical records for the next seven years with Chartsmart. I could have stored them in a shed at the bottom of the garden, but Chartsmart dealt with all patient, legal and other requests for information, and requests were common in the first two years. From 2009 onward, with more and more of the charts beyond seven years since the patient was last seen, the number of charts was reduced by shredding. By 2012 all but the charts of minors had been shredded and those will be dealt with in due course.



For the first four years I paid Chartsmart $2,000 per annum and the following two years $1,400 per annum. Since then it has reduced steadily so that in 2013 it will be $100. It will increase again when the children’s charts are shredded. In total, my chart storage and shredding has cost some $14,000. I am fortunate in that I continued working past the age when most have retired, so the $14,000 was paid out of earned and not retirement income.



Contrast those numbers with the estimated costs of a 65-year-old retiree over 16 years—but based on my 2004 to 2013 costs:

Estimated retirement record-retention costs
Years one to nine at $2,000 annually = $18,000
Years 10 to 13 at $1,400 annually = $5,600
Years 14 to 16 at $700 annually = $2,100
TOTAL: $25,700


This is no small burden to place on the shoulders of retiring doctors.



The BCMA didn’t mobilize the profession to pressure the government to accept the costs of this regulatory change being imposed on physicians. The BCMA’s only message to its members was that if a doctor has a problem, he or she should contact the CPSBC.

This clearly should be a BCMA issue for it is a very important one for the increasingly large body of retired physicians. The least those doctors could have expected was a full briefing on the implications and impact of the Limitation Act (the legislation that changed the time limits for filing civil lawsuits)—and that did not occur.



The Limitation Act was presented at a time that gave the BCMA the best possible opportunity to challenge the change: namely in the run-up to a provincial election, where it was generally expected the government would lose and lose badly. The Limitation Act was an ideal issue with which to mobilize B.C. doctors to turn it into an election issue. Every patient entering a doctor’s office should have left that doctor’s office understanding why physicians feel so strongly about the act. The BCMA should have mounted an aggressive PR campaign calling on the government to cover the financial implications associated with the Limitation Act. The media might have bought into a campaign stressing the unfairness of the act’s determination that retired doctors fund the implications of the Limitation Act and that they be required do so well into their 80s, and longer in respect of minors—perhaps even until the doctor is a centenarian.



John O’Brien-Bell is a Surrey, B.C., physician and has served as president of both the Canadian Medical Association and the BCMA.



I’ve never heard something so ridiculous in my life! Why can’t retiring docs drop off their records at their College who can then pay for, storage and dispose of the records as they see fit. As a patient I’d feel far safer knowing that there is a central location to contact if I should ever need access to “old” files. To the doc it would be fair as he/she should not be expected to bear the responsibility and financial burden for keeping old records well into retirement. What happens if the doc can no longer afford the storage fees or passes away? Does the record storage facility hand over the records to the doc’s College or does it destroy the records? It seems to me the Colleges are only in it for the “good times” and the docs have no one willing to stand up for them and protect their interests,. Docs seem to be pushovers when it comes to finances.




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