Patients vow to help West Van doctor fund upcoming retirement

Thursday, December 8th, 2016

The Province

Patients of a West Vancouver doctor who sent out a plea for help paying for his retirement are defending their longtime general practitioner and say they’ll do what they can to make sure he has enough money in his golden years.

Dr. Myron MacDonald’s goodbye letter to his patients was brought to the attention of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. last week because of its closing paragraphs, which suggest donations of “perhaps $20-$30 a month on your credit card.” The college described the request as a breach of medical ethics and asked the doctor to make things right.

But Ilze Bebris, who has been MacDonald’s patient for 35 years, didn’t see anything wrong with the letter and sent a bit of cash his way.

“It’s just a donation — there’s no repercussions if you say no. I certainly don’t have a lot of discomfort with that,” she said. “He’s offered exceptional services and has gone above and beyond.”

She has been told to expect her money back, as well as a letter of apology from MacDonald.

MacDonald’s letter suggested he had no pension and little in the way of savings for his retirement, circumstances he attributed in part to spending too much time with each patient. That’s something Bebris confirmed and she doubts she’ll be able to find another family doctor so committed to holistic care.

“He’s very personable, he’s very professional and he’s very interested not just in the issue before him, but in his patients’ well-being overall,” she said. “He’s really an outstanding doctor on all fronts.”

Despite the college’s ethical concerns with MacDonald’s letter, some patients are trying to figure out a way to help their doctor make ends meet.

“I’m not a wealthy guy, but I can spare a little bit,” said Bob Munro, who has been a patient for 40 years. “Everybody I’ve talked to wants to do something to help him. I don’t know what that’s going to look like. The college is saying he can’t accept money from his patients — well, we’ll still figure out a way to help him.”

He plans to spend some time with MacDonald over the next few months to determine his financial needs. Munro added that MacDonald lives in a rented apartment, drives a beat-up old car and seldom billed for uninsured services like annual physicals. Patient care came first at the expense of good financial practices.

“How does this happen, that a doctor — a good doctor — that spends 48 years of his life helping people winds up at the end of his career with almost nothing?” Munro said. “He’s not a good businessman, but that doesn’t make him a bad doctor or a bad person.”

B.C. does have a savings plan specifically geared toward helping physicians retire. The Contributory Professional Retirement Savings Plan (CPRSP) is administered by the B.C. Medical Association and provides matching contributions toward RRSPs and pension plans. This year, the B.C. government provided $53.7 million for the CPRSP.

MacDonald’s voice-mail message Wednesday said his office will be closed until further notice. He informed a reporter through one of his patients he couldn’t comment on the matter.

© 2016 Postmedia Network Inc.

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