The ongoing doctor shortage in Greater Victoria has caused the closure of one of three walk-in clinics on the West Shore and a cutback in opening hours at another.
St. Anthony’s Treatment Centre on Goldstream Avenue, which opened in 1981, has eliminated weekend hours and is only open sporadically during the week due to the unavailability of doctors.
A centre spokesperson suggested that people should call ahead if they need to attend, or visit medimap.ca, which provides hours of operation and information on wait times for all South Vancouver Island walk-in clinics.
A spokesperson for Primacy-Parkway clinic, located inside the Real Canadian Superstore, said they had to close last summer after their regular doctor retired, but they hope to replace him soon.
Colwood Medical on Sooke Road remains in full operation, including weekends.
Langford resident Brett Rogers, an automotive mechanic, found out the hard way about the lack of service when he went to St. Anthony’s and then Primacy-Parkway on a Saturday recently, only to find both clinics closed.
“It’s frustrating,” said Rogers, who ended up going to Tillicum Medical Clinic at Tillicum Centre in Saanich. “You don’t want to spend the whole day running around trying to find a clinic that’s open.”
Adding to his frustration is the fact he has been unable to find a family physician for seven years.
According to the B.C. Ministry of Health, walk-in clinics are privately managed operations, usually run by doctors.
“Government does not have any power to keep them open or control their hours, and neither do the health authorities,” Lori Cascaden, ministry media relations and issue management manager, said in an e-mail. “That being said, we know it can be stressful for patients when a clinic does close or hours change.”
Although she said B.C. has significantly more physicians than the Canadian average, the Ministry of Health is working with doctors to improve access to primary care through community-based groups of local family doctors called Divisions of Family Practice.
“Westshore falls under the South Island Division of Family Practice, which is working to find community level solutions to meet the needs of the local population,” Cascaden said.
The Divisions of Family Practice have recruited more than 170 doctors since 2013, she noted.
The non-profit Victoria Medical Society, functions as an information resource for working and retired doctors and the public. A spokesperson said although they try to keep up-to-date information on clinics and hours on their website, they are unable to keep up with changes caused by a shortage of doctors – they emphasized that people going to walk-in clinics should call ahead.