WATCH: A shortage of family doctors is now reaching critical levels in Esquimalt. There is only one clinic left serving nearly 20,000 people. And while it is a problem across B.C., Esquimalt’s Mayor says the province needs to remedy the situation in her community. Kori Sidaway reports.
Moving boxes fill what once was an Esquimalt doctor’s office, one that’s served the region for 43 years.
“I see a lot of people coming through here, who are ill and old,” said resident Patrick Stefanek.
But the clinic was forced to close because they were unable to find doctors to take over the practice.
And hundreds, like Donna Townsend, were left scrambling to find another family doctor.
“It’s terrible, it’s bad, the closest one that’s here closest to us is full!” said Townsend.
The closure leaves only one doctor’s office in all of Esquimalt serving almost 20,000 residents.
“We really are really in a critical state here,” said Esquimalt Mayor Barbara Desjardins.
“We are down to three doctors within the borders of Esquimalt. That is not what should be, there should be about 30 plus doctors for a region that size.”
By 11 a.m. Friday morning, Esquimalt’s lone doctor’s office was fully booked for the day. It’s becoming a common theme since the other office closed.
“The clinic has a wait time of three to four hours or they close early because they’ve reached the amount of visits that they can bill,” said Mayor Desjardins.
And Esquimalt’s mayor says the doctor shortage has now become a full-blown crisis.
“We need some help now,” said Desjardins.
“I would say the doctor’s that are here need help now and we also need a long-term strategy.”
Mayor Desjardins is calling on the B.C. government to consider Esquimalt as the site of one of their new primary care centres. Five have already opened across the province, and it seems like one in Esquimalt may be within reach.
“We’re working hard on the issue. We’re going to work hard to improve care in the region,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix.
The minister says with a generation of doctors retiring, the new wave of practitioners just don’t want the financial risk or the long hours that come with owning their own practices anymore.
“A lot of younger doctors are telling us they want to be doctors and not small business owners,” said Minister Dix.
The Health Minister and Esquimalt’s Mayor have a meeting later this month to go over solutions for the urgent need in the region.