By Alisa Howlett/News staff
A Brentwood Bay walk-in clinic is reaching out to the community in search of more patients; a stark contrast to the only other clinic in Central Saanich that, most mornings, has a lineup out the door prior to opening.
The shortage of doctors on the Saanich Peninsula isn’t a new issue. Around 30 per cent of the 65,000 patients on the Peninsula are without a doctor. In response to this Sienna Bourdon and Mark Sherman, physicians and co-managers of the family practice side at the Bayside Medical Centre in Brentwood Bay, opened a walk-in clinic last year at 7226 West Saanich Rd.
“I think one of the things that Bayside really did deliberately was open up a walk in because we were getting so many people that were saying their family doctor was retiring or that they don’t have a family doctor, they don’t have any primary care,” Sherman said.
Both doctors have family medicine practices that are full; the walk-in clinic was created to supplement their full practices and provide a medical home for “orphaned patients” – or those without a family doctor. A medical home is one, consistent facility patients can visit that tracks their medical history and provides the same level of care a family practice would.
After a year of being open, Sherman said there are days where the clinic is not that busy.
Meanwhile, the Central Saanich Medical Clinic – the only other walk-in clinic in Central Saanich – closes early most days due to a high volume of patients, said Dr. Andre Du Toit, who has been at the clinic for nearly 20 years. Some days wait times might vary between three to four hours.
“In the real world, on a Monday, I might have 15 people sitting there in the morning and you flat out close within an hour … there’s definitely still not enough capacity,” said Du Toit.
Whereas at Bayside, the average wait time might be around 15 minutes some days.
Among a number of reasons, Bourdon speculates their lack of walk-in patients might be due to people not knowing the clinic exists. Sherman added that once a patient visits the clinic, they come back.
Both doctors want the community to know they are there and the walk-in clinic is open Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.
Their lack of walk-in patients is also contributing to the larger issue of the doctor shortage. When the clinic first opened it was only open two and a half days a week to test the demand. The clinic is now open five days a week, but only for half the day.
“I think that ties into recruitment. In order to recruit physicians to work our walk-in clinic or join our clinic we need to be able to offer consistent, busy schedules. If we’re competing with a downtown walk-in that’s guaranteed to be very busy then new physicians may choose that rather than drive all the way out to Brentwood for an inconsistent schedule,” Bourdon said.
Sherman agreed. “If there was a real honest conversation it would be like, community: choose a medical home and go there consistently and help keep that service sustainable in your community, because if you don’t, then you’re going to lose that service and be in a worse place.”
The pair said they will be able to expand walk-in hours at the convenience of the community, but there needs to be the demand first. They are also hoping to bring on another doctor by this fall.
Du Toit at Central Saanich Medical Centre said a helpful resource for patients is Medimap (www.medimap.ca), a free online platform that provides patients with open clinics in their area, along with updated walk-in wait times every 20 minutes. Du Toit said all of the clinics in Greater Victoria are on Medimap. The Vancouver-based company creates a more efficient primary care system for both patients and doctors involved.
“Ideally, it would be nice if patients could be evenly distributed among clinics so everyone is getting the care they need in a consistent and continuity way,” Sherman said.