A second walk-in medical clinic in the capital region has announced it is closing in April as each points to the years-long shortage of physicians.
The closures will leave the West Shore with just one walk-in option — Island Health’s Westshore urgent and primary care centre on Goldstream Avenue. There will be no private walk-in clinics in the fast-growing West Shore.
After nearly two decades of operation, the walk-in clinic at the Colwood Medical Treatment Centre at Colwood Corners on Sooke Road will close on April 15, ending its daily service.
View Royal’s Eagle Creek Medical Clinic on Helmcken Road is also closing its walk-in service on April 15 because it is losing two physicians in the spring.
“This decision has been made as a result of the chronic physician shortage in the Greater Victoria area,” the Colwood clinic said in a statement.
“This is most regrettable and we are sorry to have to make this decision.”
The clinic recommends walk-in patients go to the Goldstream Avenue clinic for same day, urgent, non-emergency health care.
The Colwood clinic will continue to operate its existing family practice. Dr. Robert Browett, one of its family physicians, will retire in March. A spokesperson for the Colwood centre could not be reached Tuesday.
Similarly, the Eagle Creek office will continue with its primary care service.
Social media sites in the capital region regularly attract postings from people desperate to find a family doctor.
Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh, Doctors of B.C. president, said Tuesday the latest walk-in closures are alarming and highlight a long-standing problem, exacerbated by the toll the pandemic is taking.
“The crisis has just illuminated the fact that we need a lot more support in our community clinics.
“It’s an issue that concerns most of the doctors in B.C. because we need a robust primary care delivery system and to be available for our patients and the public in order to have a true health care system delivery that works for everybody.”
Doctors of B.C. and the province are working together to try and solve what is a complex problem, she said.
“There is no easy or quick fix.”
Family practice needs to be made attractive to doctors again while enhancing patient care, she said.
“We really need to invigorate our community clinics and family doctors that are in existing practice,” Dosanjh said.
Measures could include reducing the burden of paperwork on doctors, having fewer and more standardized forms, setting up improved electronic connections with labs and pharmacies, and implementing better use of virtual care.
There’s a move towards team-based care among health-care providers, involving more than doctors by including others such as nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and dieticians.
Doctors of B.C. are discussing remuneration with the province.
Along with recruiting doctors, retaining them is critical. With the pandemic still strong, burnout and emotional exhaustion is higher than in the past and attrition is a concern, Dosanjh said.
Doctors can spend a full day in their clinics and then go home and spend two hours filling out charts, she said.
“This is about helping us help our patients, creating team-based care settings, allowing us to have less burden of paperwork and do things that are meaningful, like really checking in and building our rapport and relationships with our patients. That’s what saves lives.”
“I want people to know that we, above all are committed to our patients. But we also need to understand the importance of physician health, our mental and psychosocial emotional well being right now.”
Langford Mayor Stew Young wants the federal government to send more money to provinces to help bolster the health-care system.
Canada needs to reinvent its health-care system with the expectation pandemics will happen, Young said.
The country has a two-tiered system consisting of those who have a doctor and those who do not, he said.
Young suggested the municipality could provide a building for physicians to use for family practice and provide tax breaks if the province brought in enabling legislation.