Patient cut adrift by closing of clinic wants to be first in line for urgent care centre

Jennifer Waelti-Walters got a surprise this past week when she learned a new urgent and primary care centre is opening in Saanich — in the same walk-in clinic that closed in June, leaving her without her family doctor of 10 years.

The former University of Victoria women’s studies professor received a letter in June saying Care Point Medical and Wellness Centre, at 100-4420 Chatterton Way, was closing a week later, on June 26. About 1,200 patients attended the clinic within the last six months.

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“Well, I was horrified,” said Waelti-Walters, 78. “I mean it was just absolutely abrupt. It was like boom, gone.”

The letter from Care Point physicians Anita Buriloski-Chkipova and Hristo Chkipov said they had recently been told by the owner that the clinic was closing.

It said the clinic space was about to be renovated “for another project under new organization,” and the family practices and walk-in clinic would have to close. “We are very sorry for this inconvenience and for the short notice, but these are the circumstances out of our control.”

Susan Prins, director of communications for the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons, said at least three months’ notice is typically considered appropriate for patients losing their physicians, “to allow patients ample time to make alternate arrangements.”

With six days’ heads up, Waelti-Walters rushed to the pharmacist to renew a prescription.

She had already followed her physician from two other clinics. “I followed her twice and now I got dumped — through no fault of hers.”

This week, she learned an urgent and primary care centre would open in the same space in November. The goal of the new centre, one of five on the Island — along with centres in Langford, Nanaimo, James Bay and one set for Esquimalt in the spring — is to take pressure off hospital emergency rooms by treating people who need attention within 12 to 24 hours for conditions such as sprains, urinary problems, and minor cuts or burns. They also aim to “attach” patients to family care providers and clinics.

“Why would they close a functioning practice, right, to open another medical place three months later?” Waelti-Walters said.

Island Health said Care Point was a private practice that, “according to the clinic owner, was no longer viable.” The health authority acquired the site following a request-for-proposals process.

Island Health said the new centre will need doctors to provide both urgent and continuous care, and if Care Point doctors are interested in working there and meet the criteria, they could be considered.

As for patients, the health authority said it will be prioritizing those who live in the immediate area of the centre. Priority will be given to patients who do not have a family care provider and who have more complex health care needs and will benefit most from the centre’s integrated team-based primary care.

Asked where patients can register with the Chatterton Way centre, Island Health said it’s working on a website that should be live “in the coming days.”

“I’d like to be at the front of that line,” Waelti-Walters said. “To have a doctor would make me feel a lot safer in my old age. I’m really fine right now, but nonetheless, it feels a bit like hanging out in the wind.”

Statistics Canada says 97,800 people — or nearly 15 per cent of the population age 12 and older — on Vancouver Island had no regular health-care provider in 2015-2016.

Each time a clinic closes, patients are instructed to contact a medical-records storage company for their patient records. Waelti-Walters paid $161.85 for hers.

Now she just needs a doctor to give them to.

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