The Colwood Medical Treatment Centre will be closing its walk-in clinic on April 15 – the latest in a series of hits to West Shore residents hoping to find general practitioner services.
In a statement posted to its website, the clinic said no new walk-in patients would be accepted, but people who need follow-up after a recent appointment or are waiting to hear on test results would be contacted. The centre added medical records would be stored “according to College guidelines” and copies would be available upon request.
“This decision has been made as a result of the chronic physician shortage in the Greater Victoria area,” the clinic said in a statement. “Despite ongoing efforts in physician recruitment, we have been unable to sustain the 7-day/week walk-in services that we were proud to offer our patients in the past. This is most regrettable and we are sorry to have to make this decision.”
The clinic also announced one of its family physicians, Dr. Robert Browett, would be retiring on March 1.
While they used to be used primarily for simple appointments or refilling prescriptions, walk-in clinics have started to be used not as originally intended — fuelled by the Island’s aging population that has more complex health issues and a lack of family doctors, according to Leslie Keenan, interim executive director of South Island Divisional Family Practice.
“When you consider the complexity and sometimes chronic conditions of the patients that are coming into walk-in clinics, particularly in mental health, substance use – people with issues like that, it takes more than a 10-minute visit,” she said. “It’s just not sustainable. So that, coupled with the numbers of unattached patients, has created a kind of an untenable situation for family physicians.”
Financial pressures on family doctors are straining the system, she added. The $31.62 standard fee family doctors charge for a visit hasn’t changed since the last master agreement was signed between Doctors BC and the province in 2019. The current deal expires on March 31. Overhead costs are also increasing — taking an average 30 to 40 per cent of a doctor’s salary to pay for staff and equipment in B.C., with that fee likely higher for doctors on the Island, said Keenan.
Doctors BC is currently in negotiations with the province on a new master agreement, which Keenan said would hopefully address some of those issues. She added primary care networks, which the province established in 2018, should help tackle some of the issues too. Currently, there are two networks, one for the Saanich Peninsula and one for the western communities.
“The idea is that rather than the patients having to go to multiple different door, they can go to one door and their services are quarterbacked by the family physician,” she said. “So that’s what the aim is. We’re not quite there yet.”
This latest closure notice comes a week after another West Shore clinic, Eagle Creek Medical Clinic in View Royal, announced it would be also closing in April. That came after the two general practitioner doctors there announced they would be leaving their medical practice and working for private online-only clinics in the U.S. That leaves no privately-owned walk-in clinics open on the West Shore, with only the Westshore Urgent and Primary Care Centre left.
Doctors BC estimates there are around 100,000 people in Greater Victoria without a family doctor.