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Another medical clinic set to shut its doors in Greater Victoria

The Cook and Quadra Medical Clinic will close in June, displacing about 3,000 patients.

Jennifer Bailey has unwillingly joined thousands of other patients in the capital region who have lost their family doctor and are scrambling to find another.

Bailey recently learned that the Cook and Quadra Medical Clinic building in Saanich where she, her husband and two daughters, ages nine and 14, receive care has been sold and is set to close June 10.

It’s the latest in a string of clinic closings. The Cook Street Village Medical Clinic closed last week, and Eagle Creek Medical Clinic walk-in in View Royal and the Colwood Medical Treatment Centre in Colwood are to close today.

“We give so much in tax dollars to the health system and the health-care system is imploding,” Bailey said.

Bailey, a teacher, knew the medical clinic at 3461 Cook St. was up for sale and was dreading the day the sale would go through.

She said it’s nerve-wracking to think of running between walk-in clinics and Urgent and Primary Care Centres for care.

“It’s a scary feeling knowing we’re not going to have a GP with two young girls — we’re at the mercy of all the walk-ins now,” said Bailey, who was a patient of Dr. Peter T. Vizsolyi for about seven years.

“I’ve never in my life not had a family doctor.”

In a letter to patients, Vizsolyi said he had always planned to find a replacement and retire with the sale of the building, but has been unable to find someone to take over. Vizsolyi is one of five doctors at the clinic, but four work part-time hours equivalent to about 2.5 full-time positions.

About 3,000 patients could be displaced by the closing.

Vizsolyi told patients he plans to move to the Burnside Medical Clinic at 101 Burnside Rd. West until at least October to continue the search for his replacement, or at the very least give his patients’ records a new home.

No specifics were available for what the other doctors will do.

Records for patients who used the Cook and Quadra clinic as a walk-in will also go to the Burnside clinic, said its medical director Dr. Ian Bridger. “[They] will be available from there for transfer for anyone who finds a GP, but with the present walk-in physician shortage, we are unfortunately unable to offer all those people guaranteed walk-in care,” he said.

In an interview Wednesday, Vizsolyi, 66, said it’s hard to imagine that when he started his practice, billing numbers were restricted to ensure there weren’t too many doctors in the region, and now doctors who bought practices “can’t give them away.”

“It’s very frustrating to see that at the end of your career,” said Vizsolyi. “I don’t think [the government] understands how dire the situation is. I think they need to do something quite radical.”

Doctors of B.C. and the province are negotiating alternative payment models to attract more physicians to work as family doctors. Some physicians like the traditional fee-for-service model but many new doctors want to work in health-authority owned clinics and be paid on contract or receive a salary.

Vizsolyi said medical graduates today have likely spent three to four more years studying and are returning to Victoria with large student debts, face high residential and commercial prices, and may be caring for young families. For those reasons, they are unable or unwilling to take on the overhead of a family practice.

Vizsolyi said until long-term solutions to support primary care or retooled payment models are found, the government could offer short-term fixes, such as incentives of $100,000 or money for overhead for doctors in their first year of practice.

“And then maybe it wouldn’t be so risky for them.”

Last week, B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced B.C. will spend $3.46 million for more physicians, nurses and other health workers to keep five south Island walk-in clinics open: Esquimalt ­Medical Clinic, West Coast Family ­Medical Clinic in Sooke, West Saanich Medical Clinic, and Shoreline Medical clinics in Brentwood Bay and Sidney.

Since 2017, the province has also created 27 urgent and primary care centres.

An estimated 750,000 to 900,000 British Columbians don’t have a family doctor, including 100,000 in the south Island.

As for the Cook and Quadra Medical Clinic building, a flyer sent to neighbours says Holland Planning Innovations, a development management and planning firm in Victoria, and client Gill Developments, are at the “concept stage” for a new four-to-six storey multi-family residential project on the property, with ground-floor commercial spaces.

It said it would aim to have a medical clinic in the building.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com

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