Steve O’Neill knows too well the struggle in finding a family doctor in Greater Victoria.
“They told me to call first thing in the morning at 9 a.m.,” said the Sidney resident. “They said if you call at 9:01, the phones will be closed because all the appointments will be full for the day.”
According to their website, Shoreline Medical’s two locations receive approximately 8,000 calls per day.
O’Neill moved to Sidney from the U.S. a year and a half ago where he said he lived at times with and without medical insurance, yet never found it this hard to find a physician.
“You know I’ve never experienced anything like this where it’s like you’re trying to get a ticket to the rolling stones to get an appointment, that’s not something I’ve remotely experienced in the states, ever.”
O’Neill says he’s more frustrated for his aunt who’s 93 years old, doesn’t have a family doctor, and was relies on emergency room visits for her health care needs.
“She waited a very long time and she’s older and she couldn’t understand why we were there so long,” said O’Neill. “That was very challenging.”
With a handful of Greater Victoria family doctors recently announcing their departure from primary care, one Victoria doctor tells CHEK News that a surge in demand is adding more strain to the already severe family doctor crisis.
“It’s a perfect storm,” said Dr. Matthew Ward, director of the Eagle Creek Medical Clinic in View Royal. “I think it’s getting worst.”
Ward believes costs associated with running a practice are deterring family doctors from staying in primary care.
“We need to incentivize a large number of those family doctors who have licenses in BC to come back into community-based family practice, to create medical homes for our patients.”
Meanwhile, O’Neill has already written several letters to elected officials and says he won’t stop anytime soon.
“The political will just doesn’t seem to be there, and that to me is the real problem.”
The Ministry of Health told CHEK News in a statement that they are in active discussions with the Victoria and South Island Primary Care Networks, as well as with the Doctors of BC on actions that may be taken in the interim to stabilize local clinics.
The Ministry adds that more than $70 million has been invested to improve primary care in Victoria and that they aim to support around 126,000 more patients in the Greater Victoria area over the next several years.