Patients in B.C. will soon be able to consult their family doctors by phone in a new program announced Friday by the provincial health ministry and the B.C. Medical Association.

The program called "A GP For Me" will be available across British Columbia starting April 1. Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid committed $24 million more to expand pilot projects that found family doctors for more than 9,000 patients in White Rock, Prince George and the Cowichan Valley.

Doctors will get paid $15 per patient phone call up to a maximum of 500 such consultations every year.

"This new program will make it easier for physicians to provide high-quality care to their patients, and in many cases ease their workload so that they can accept more patients into their practices," said Health Minister Margaret MacDiarmid in a news release.

The initiative is part of a provincial goal to ensure all B.C. residents have access to a family doctor by 2015. It's estimated that 176,000 British Columbians don't have a family doctor.

Friday's announcement also includes incentives for doctors to take on patients with complex conditions such as cancer.

With files from The Canadian Press

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  • Family Doctor

    <strong>HOW OFTEN TO GO:</strong> If you're not sick, once a year for annual check-ups and flu shots, or <a href="">several times a year</a> if you're suffering from illnesses, need immunity shots or are pregnant <strong>THE DETAILS:</strong> Doctors are often the first people you visit as soon as something goes wrong. Coughs, runny noses, back pains and the flu shot — you doctor can both treat these ailments or refer you to a specialist who can help. Annual check-ups are also <a href="">recommended once a year</a> to update your family doctor with your weight, height and any changes in your blood, for example. <b>DO I NEED A REFERRAL?</b>: No, but you need to find a family doctor. If word-of-mouth doesn't work, the <a href="">College of Physicians and Surgeons</a> has an organization based in each province with a list of doctors accepting new patients.

  • Dermatologist

    <strong>HOW OFTEN TO GO:</strong> Once a year, and in warmer months if you're seeking advice on skin protection from the sun <strong>THE DETAILS:</strong> According to skin expert Dr. Jim Baral, how often you see a dermatologist depends on the purpose of your visit. If you're curious about the condition of your <a href="">skin overall or have general inquires, once a year is sufficient</a>. But if you're worried about skin spots or acne, make an appointment right away, he said in an article on <em></em>. <b>DO I NEED A REFERRAL?</b>: Yes for medical procedures (like acne and moles), no for cosmetic procedures (like wrinkles or sunspots).

  • Gynecologist

    <strong>HOW OFTEN TO GO:</strong> Once a year or every three years (depending on your situation) — for many women, their general practitioner (GP) is sufficient <strong>THE DETAILS:</strong> Women over the age of 18 (both sexually active and not) should see a gynecologist (or someone with whom to discuss reproductive concerns) at least once a year, according to <a href=""><em>Everyday Health</em></a>. If you're pregnant, for example, you're more likely to see the gyno more often. <b>DO I NEED A REFERRAL?</b>: Yes — if you have specific concerns or are pregnant, your GP can refer you to a gynecologist

  • Dentist

    <strong>HOW OFTEN TO GO:</strong> Six months for a cleaning, once a year for X-rays <strong>THE DETAILS:</strong> Depending on your health, your visits to the dentist <a href="">can vary</a>, according to the Canadian Dental Association. Do you smoke? Floss every day? Eat well? The organization says these are questions you should ask yourself before you see a dentist — and it will determine how often you have to sit in a dentist's chair. <b>DO I NEED A REFERRAL?</b>: No.

  • Optometrist

    <strong>HOW OFTEN TO GO:</strong> Age dependent, but roughly, once every two to three years <strong>THE DETAILS:</strong> School-aged children (under the age of 19) <a href="">should receive eye examinations annually</a>, according to the Canadian Association of Optometrists. Adults between the ages of 20 and 39, especially if they wear glasses or contacts, should see an optometrist once every two to three years to keep their prescriptions updated. Anyone over the age of <a href="">40 should have eye exams once every two years.</a> <b>DO I NEED A REFERRAL?</b>: No.

  • Occupational Therapist

    <strong>HOW OFTEN TO GO:</strong> Depending on the treatment, visits can vary from once a month to once every few years <strong>THE DETAILS:</strong> Occupational therapists cover everything from <a href="">stress management to exercises to build strength</a> after an injury, according to The Cleveland Clinic. Depending on your <a href="">mood, injury and age</a>, some clients visit OTs regularly to receive therapy. <b>DO I NEED A REFERRAL?</b>: No.

  • Colonoscopy/Proctologists

    <strong>HOW OFTEN TO GO:</strong> Every 10 years (for people with average or low risks of colon-related illnesses) <strong>THE DETAILS:</strong> For most people, colorectal cancer screenings begin at the age of 50, according to <em></em>. Screenings should depend on your age, your risk factor and the type of screening you want. For example, <a href="">fecal occult blood tests (fecal samples) should happen once a year</a>, while double-contrast barium enema (an X-ray for the entire colon) should happen every five years after 50. <b>DO I NEED A REFERRAL?</b>: Yes, by your family doctor.

  • Allergist/Allergy Shots

    <strong>HOW OFTEN TO GO:</strong> For those who have allergic reactions, depending on the type of test, it could vary from every two to four weeks for the first five months and later, once a month for the next three to five years <strong>THE DETAILS:</strong> <a href="">Allergy shots help your body get used to allergens</a> — they actually don't cure you from having allergic reactions, according to WebMD. If you suffer from any allergic reactions during spring or summer months, and medicine doesn't seem to do the trick, these <a href="">shots are designed to lower your risk of symptoms</a>. <b>DO I NEED A REFERRAL?</b>: Yes, initially by your family doctor.

  • ENT Specialists

    <strong>HOW OFTEN TO GO:</strong> Ask your family doctor if an ENT specialist is needed — course of treatment is on a case-by-case basis. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may have to see an ENT specialist as much as once a week to heal. <strong>THE DETAILS:</strong> An ENT (ear, nose, and throat) doctor or an otolaryngologist, is trained to treat <a href="">everything from injuries to nerve damage in the ear, nose or throat area</a>. ENT specialists can also provide treatments for cosmetic surgeries, sinus pain and head and neck cancer, according to the Canadian Society of Otolaryngology. <b>DO I NEED A REFERRAL?</b>: Yes, by your family doctor

  • Chiropractor

    <strong>HOW OFTEN TO GO:</strong> At least 10 to 20 visits after your first visit — at least once a week in the beginning <strong>THE DETAILS:</strong> Most people tend to seek chiropractors because of <a href="">body pains and strains</a>, according to the Canadian Chiropractic Association (CCA). San Francisco based chiropractor Dr. Eben Davis adds that people with fast-paced jobs or ones who perform a lot of physical activity, are more likely to see a <a href="">chiropractor a few times a month.</a> <b>DO I NEED A REFERRAL?</b>: You can ask your doctor to refer you to a specialist, but you can also <a href="">find a list of chiropractors in your area</a> through the CCA.