Probably no other speciality relies more on its multidisciplinary teams than Infectious Diseases (ID), from health care workers to housekeepers. “We need cohesive care teams to address complex global infectious disease challenges,” says Dr Dwight Ferris, President of the BC Infectious Diseases Society, “not act simply as a local resource but as a global community.” According to Dr Ferris, the biggest challenge facing the speciality today is globalization. “Worldwide pandemics develop quickly, and what happens on the other side of the world can easily affect us here in BC.”
However, in BC and worldwide there is a shortage of infectious diseases specialists. Our cognitive subspecialty of internal medicine relies on a good foundation of history taking, physical examination, and diagnostic imaging and laboratory. Remuneration tends to be less significant than the procedural specialties of internal medicine, and therefore fewer trainees have entered our ranks.
Currently, there are 44 Infectious Diseases specialists in BC, 36 of whom are full-time with two-thirds of these full-time specialists practicing in the Lower Mainland. The result is a shortage in areas outside of the Lower Mainland; communities such as Kelowna face a ratio of one Infectious Disease specialist per 250,000 people.
The Specialist Services Committee (SSC) has supported the speciality by enhancing patient access to our teams and improving billing codes and fee structures, such as telephone consultations and home IV programs.
The World Health Organization reports that over the last 20 years, at least 30 new infectious diseases have been scientifically recognized around the world. Furthermore, diseases once thought to be a thing of the past – such as tuberculosis and cholera – are making a comeback. Says Dr Ferris, “the best approach when dealing with communicable diseases is to focus on prevention rather than cure.”