A walk-in clinic in Courtenay operating for decades has announced it’s closing permanently, leaving just one open for the entire Comox Valley at a Walmart Supercentre.
Washington Park Medical Clinic, located inside the Real Canadian Superstore on Ryan Road, is closing for good on April 28, according to a post on its website.
“After serving the Comox Valley and surrounding communities for nearly 30 years, we regret to inform you that our walk-in clinic is closing,” reads the post, which was written on behalf of the facility’s physicians and staff.
The clinic is already operating at altered hours and a worker there tells CHEK News that, to their knowledge, the only other walk-in clinic in Courtenay is inside the Walmart Supercentre on Cliffe Avenue.
Not only does that mean there will be just one walk-in clinic in Courtenay — it may be the only one left in all of the Comox Valley, according to an online database.
Throughout the Valley, Pathways Medical Care Directory lists just two walk-in clinics in the region, including Washington Park and the clinic in Walmart, the Comox Valley Medical Clinic, which is also an urgent care centre.
The area has a population of about 75,000 people.
Another urgent care centre, Comox Valley After Hours Urgent Care Clinic, is located in the same Superstore. People needing medical care can also learn more about virtual care services via Island Health’s website.
Fee-for-service model to end after slew of closures
The closure adds to a growing list of shuttered health-care facilities on Vancouver Island.
A letter on Washington Park’s website titled “Everyone Deserves a Family Doctor” says on average, the fee for a patient seen in the office is $31, with 30 to 40 per cent of that amount going to cover overhead costs.
“The ever-increasing burden of administrative work to review laboratory and radiology results, specialist consults, and other paperwork are not paid for, and many physicians work, uncompensated, into the evening in order to get this done, and to ensure proper care,” the post states.
According to the clinic, about 50 per cent of all physicians in the province meet the criteria for burnout, which can lead to mental health challenges, disability and increased turnover.
“For these reasons, and many more, it is difficult to financially support our clinics, which leads to the closures we have all heard about in the news,” it says. “In addition, several physicians are turning away from longitudinal family medicine in order to work in other clinical environments that allow less stress and better compensation.”
The closure announcement follows other walk-in clinics on the Island, particularly in Greater Victoria, closing their doors within the past year due to a shortage of physicians.
The walk-in clinic at the Cook Street Clinic in Victoria, for example, closed effective immediately last April, when a staff member told CHEK News that amid an influx of patients, “it’s become difficult work that is unfortunately relatively poorly paid.”
Last October, the B.C. government announced it had reached an agreement with Doctors of BC and BC Family Doctors to update the pay model for family doctors in the province.
Beginning in February, the province will move away from the fee-for-service model that has been criticized by family doctors, who say it’s part of the reason why physicians in B.C. are instead choosing to work in hospitals and other settings where they are not responsible for their own overhead costs.
“The new payment model option for family doctors is unique in Canada, bringing together the best of a range of payment methods,” said Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh, president of Doctors of BC, when the agreement was announced.
Nearly one-million British Columbians do not have access to a family doctor, according to the B.C. College of Physicians and Surgeons. The 2021 census shows the population of B.C. is just over five million.