Dr Francis Vala, a family physician and bariatrician based in New Westminster, recently made a return to family medicine after closing his practice in 2018 and spending five years focusing solely on obesity medicine. The new Longitudinal Family Physician (LFP) payment model was a major catalyst for his return to family medicine.
Dr Vala signed up for the LFP payment model in February 2023, and he says the new model’s advantages support him in providing the level of patient care he is committed to as a family physician—“There are expectations, ethical and moral.”
Having graduated from medical school in Iran, Dr Vala moved to Canada in 1999, and graduated from UBC Family Medicine in 2005. He practiced family medicine in his own clinic for more than a decade in British Columbia, but increased administrative burdens, physician burnout, and systemic pressures on the primary care system led him to close the clinic in 2018. “That was my breaking point”, he adds.
Until 2023, he had been working full-time in obesity medicine, and had not envisioned a return to his former life as a family physician. “I was able to see the light at the end of the tunnel with the new payment model,” he says.
“I actually started opening up the door to family practice again after I signed up”, he says. Dr Vala hopes to be able to approach family practice with a renewed passion, and a focus on preventative care for his patients. “I feel my obligation is to improve quality of life and longevity, and we can do that as physicians. We have the training, we have the knowledge and the ability to do that, with the right support, and circumstances in the right practice setting.”
As well as providing space for Dr Vala to prioritize providing direct patient care, the new model also allows him to focus on his own wellbeing. “As physicians, we have to be able to maintain a balance between our own and our family’s health and wellness, as well as our patients’,” he says.
“I would encourage physicians to sign up to the new payment model," says Dr Vala. "I think it's much better. It's not perfect. Obviously, there are a lot of areas that need to be improved—but it's fairer, at least for my practice, and probably for most family doctors, the way they like to practice.”