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Campbell River walk-in clinic a week from permanent closure

A notice on the group’s website says the walk-in clinic’s last day will be Nov. 17.
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The Quinsam Medical Group’s walk-in cinic in Campbell River will close permanently after its last full day on Nov. 17, 2023. CHEK NEWS

Quinsam Medical Group’s stand-alone walk-in clinic in Campbell River is closing next week, unable to keep up with demand amid a family doctor shortage across the province.

A notice on the group’s website says the walk-in clinic’s last day will be Nov. 17.

The eight physicians at the Quinsam Medical Group’s downtown clinic on Dogwood Street had been rotating shifts to also staff the walk-in clinic in the Timberline Village, at 801 Hilchey Rd., in addition to working at the local hospital.

“Contrary to recent rumours,” none of the downtown clinic’s eight physicians is retiring, says the clinic’s website.

News of the closing — will affects only the walk-in clinic — came last month.

“It’s just timing and staffing and cost,” said Barb Baldwin, a licensed practical nurse at the clinic. The physicians pay for the two buildings, the staffing, supplies and more.

Campbell River Acting Mayor Sean Smyth said the imminent closure of the walk-in clinic is “just another blow.”

“It’s never been more expensive to run a health-care clinic than it is now, on top of which there’s a massive shortage of people — not not just doctors and nurses, even front-room staff they can’t hire,” Smyth said.

The walk-in clinic is one of the only ones in the region that sees patients who don’t have a primary care provider at the clinic.

HealthLink BC 8-1-1 and virtual clinics remain options for those patients, but there is no Urgent and Primary Care Centre in Campbell River.

“If we don’t have enough clinics, they’re going to have to go to the ER, there’s nothing else for them, and the ER is already over capacity, so it’s a huge concern,” said Smyth, whose young family of four and elderly parents also use the walk-in clinic. 

The Quinsam walk-in clinic — which sees 15 to 50 patients in a day — had already cut its hours.

Prior to the pandemic, it was open five days a week from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. and weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. It’s now open five days a week from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. — but often reaches capacity long before then.

“Coming back from COVID, we just don’t have the doctors to run it a full day like we used to,” Baldwin said. It’s not feasible to continue, she said, amid a shortage of doctors, nurses and health-care staff.

Smyth said the health-care community approached the city about eight months ago and the city went into high gear to remove as many barriers as possible to attract health-care workers to the community.

The city allotted $20,000 from its contingency fund for initiatives such as prioritizing permitting for anyone wanting to set up a clinic and designating and setting up an apartment for health-care workers — mostly doctors and nurses — to use rent free while training or providing locum services to fill vacant shifts.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place because there’s only there’s only so many levers that we can pull,” Smyth said. “In the end, we don’t create health-care professionals, and we don’t run businesses.”

If the province or heath authority were not doing enough, Campbell River council would be vocal, he said.

“I have no more suggestions,” Smyth said. “There’s more that needs to be done for sure, but we don’t have suggestions that we can give them. They’re trying everything they can.

Island Health, in a statement, acknowledged it is stressful for patients to lose access to a primary care provider or a clinic.

Since learning of the Quinsam walk-in clinic closing, Island Health said it has been working in collaboration with the Division of Family Practice and Campbell River Primary Care Network on an interim solution.

“We know there is much work to do in primary care, and in partnership we are committed to continue to increase access and attachment for our communities.”

B.C. Heath Minister Adrian Dix has said the province continues to work on recruiting physicians and building up primary care.

ceharnett@timescolonist.com ​​