As more than 20 coronavirus cases are confirmed in the province, wait times at Greater Victoria walk-in clinics are more than double what they were this time last year.
“I have a line-up through the door and we opened 20 minutes ago,” said Natalie Gladstone, medical office assistant at Royal Oak Medical Clinic. “We’re hitting capacity within the first hour… it’s way beyond the normal amount.”
The global virus, known officially as COVID-19, has infected 21 people in B.C. as of Friday. One of those cases, a woman in the Vancouver Coastal region, has not recently travelled or had contact with a known case.
In Washington state more than 70 cases and nine deaths have been reported, and while Greater Victoria has no confirmed cases of the virus, face masks and hand sanitizer are flying off the shelves and images of empty grocery store shelves are circulating the internet after some health officials advised stocking up on food, household items and medication.
But grocery stores aren’t the only places under pressure.
The region’s walk-in medical clinics, already strained by the province’s family doctor shortage, are overwhelmed with an influx of patients.
According to MediMap CEO Blake Adam, wait times at Victoria walk-in clinics jumped 25 per cent between January and February this year, going from an average of two hours to two and a half.
During the same time period in 2019, wait times dropped by 21 per cent – with an average of one hour and 35 minutes in January and one hour and 15 minutes in February.
Gladstone estimates that up to 70 per cent of patients are coming in with respiratory concerns. She said they are telling people who aren’t really sick to stay home.
“It just means less people are being seen for other conditions,” she said. “We’re turning people away because we hit capacity … there’s frustration amongst patients.”
But coronavirus cannot be a confirmed cause for the increases. At the Yates and Quadra Integrated Health Centre, staff say the busy clinic is just business as usual.
“It’s the same,” said Jade Taylor, medical office assistant, noting that the clinic is one of the only downtown options. “It’s always crazy.”
With files from Tom Fletcher.
Follow us on Instagram
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.