Local naturopaths hoping to get wider access to labs

Dr. Trent Brereton was at City Council last week looking for support to allow naturopathic doctors the ability to prescribe lab work.

Dr. Trent Brereton, a naturopathic doctor from Cranbrook, was in Cranbrook City Council last week looking for support to allow naturopathic doctors the ability to prescribe lab work. Dr. Brereton explained that currently naturopathic practitioners have quite a few limitations compared to medical doctors, for instance not being able to visit patients in the hospital and not being able to prescribe lab work. For lab work, a naturopathic doctor has to get his patient to see a medical doctor. At the hospital, Brereton said, naturopathic doctors have to visit patients as a friend, because of limitations.

Brereton said naturopathic doctors serve a different function than medical doctors, in that they practice preventative medicine rather than treatment of conditions.

He said that aligns closely with provincial and federal health care policies.

“It’s very cost effective, it’s much more cost effective to treat a person preventatively than to treat a disease once it’s settled in,” he said. “As such, our profession is trying to let folks know this is what we do, and in fact, we have a lot to offer in terms of saving money at the provincial and national level.”

In 2010, naturopathic doctors began prescribing naturally derived pharmaceuticals, and he said they’ve had an excellent safety record.

Naturopathic doctors have been trying since 2008 to get members of the profession access to provincial labs, but in 2013, there is still not much progress.

“What I’m here asking for costs no money whatsoever, we’re just looking for broader access to existing facilities,” he said. “Currently, people who come and see me and require diagnostic work, I either have to refer them to drive up to Kimberley to have their blood drawn or I draw their blood locally and send it to Alberta.”

He said sometimes he even has to send it across to the states to have it looked at.

“None of this can be done using local facilities.”

Even the lab at Kimberley has to send it to Alberta. He also said that even if naturopaths had access to labs, there would be no cost to the province, because patients would pay out of pocket or through extended coverage for the lab work.

Naturopathic doctors also can’t refer directly to specialists at the moment.

“I do recognize that council and your worship does not have the power to change health care policy,” Brereton said. “I’m here to increase awareness. I’m here to acknowledge that the naturopathic profession has a significant impact on the community. We provide a lot of employment within our clinics. It allows for more streamlined access and patient care and it reduces cost on our local systems.”

Coun. Bob Whetham wondered where the greatest resistance was coming from to the procedures Brereton was describing.

Brereton said he couldn’t be sure.

“I think there’s a willingness at the provincial level, but there’s such a potent lobby within the College of Physicians and Surgeons, I think that is probably the stopgap,” he said.

Brereton was hoping for a letter from council stating its position, whatever it may be to the government.

Whetham suggested that the Union of B.C. Municipalities would probably be the best place to put a motion forward on the matter.

“I think the place that would be the most influential would be the UBCM, if it hasn’t already gone forward as a motion, it’s something that might be looked at, because it would be a problem being faced right across the province,” Whetham said.

B.C. is at the forefront of the naturopathic doctor movement in Canada, with 500 practicing in the province, five of which are in the East Kootenay.

Naturopathic doctors are trained through a seven to eight year process that includes pre-medical undergraduate training, followed by a four year naturopathic training at an accredited school in North America.

He said in the past few years they have seen a doubling of patients coming to see naturopathic doctors.