About 200 Lake Cowichan residents attended a meeting this week to hear what the Vancouver Island Health Authority is doing to deal with a doctor shortage in their town.
Their concern is shared by a number of Island communities. There are openings for 43 family doctors on VIHA’s website, including in Alert Bay, Qualicum Beach, Black Creek and Gabriola and Galiano islands.
Lake Cowichan lost one of three doctors last May, and another is moving to Duncan in September, leaving just one physician to serve approximately 6,000 residents from the town and surrounding communities.
When the first doctor left, his patients had to find another doctor in Duncan, a half-hour drive away.
“For a simple thing like a doctor appointment, you now have to take a day off work instead of an hour,” Mayor Ross Forrest said.
“It was great for the community to have some reassurance that this [doctor shortage] isn’t unique to Lake Cowichan and there are people working on our behalf,” Forrest said after the meeting.
“We have lots to offer here, and affordability. For a doctor, running a practice here is a lot cheaper than running a practice in downtown Vancouver.”
Real estate is also affordable compared to surrounding Island communities, he added.
The number of people at the Lake Cowichan meeting indicates the community is concerned and engaged, factors that should help attract new physicians, said Brenda Warren, physician-recruitment manager at the health authority.
“Everybody’s on the same page. They want to do something, and our messaging was the more engaged a community is, the easier it is to recruit [new doctors].”
The community has agreed to collaborate with VIHA in hopes the situation can be rectified soon, she said. “We’re recruiting physicians, but we’re also recruiting the physician’s family, and that’s where the community can really help.”
Warren said most Island communities have opportunities for one or more family physicians.
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