‘Simple answer is get more doctors’: Victoria family calls for improved healthcare access after holiday illness

'Simple answer is get more doctors': Victoria family calls for improved healthcare access after holiday illness

A Victoria family is frustrated with the lack of doctors on Vancouver Island after their family became very sick over the holidays.

Siddharth Jain said it all started on Dec. 22 when his family, and his brother’s family visiting from Seattle, all got sick.

“A lot of coughs, high temperature and body pains. The classic symptoms of the flu,” Jain said.

His niece and nephew, both under the age of four, were fighting high fevers of 104 degrees fahrenheit.

When their fevers didn’t come down, and the rest of the family’s health wasn’t improving, Jain started calling urgent and primary care centres (UPPC) and was told he needed an appointment and to call back in the morning.

“I called them at 8 a.m. and every line – the entire line – was jammed, didn’t get through or anything,” Jain said. “So I tried a number of other UPPC’s, didn’t get through.”

With the kids age and a warning from the BC Centre for Disease Control about three child flu-related deaths in the province, Jain’s brother rushed the children to the Victoria General Hospital’s emergency room to see a doctor.

“They waited eight hours in the ER just to get checked out. When their turn finally came, they had just one doctor in the ER,” Jain said. “The doctor checked them out and he said it was just the flu and it’ll go way on its own.”

In a statement, Island health said it cannot comment on specific cases to protect patient privacy, adding care is based on clinical judgement informed by an assessment of the patient and the patient’s medical history.

“Anyone in need of critical care is prioritized,” the statement reads. “Patients presenting to emergency departments are triaged and seen based on acuity, with the sickest patients being seen first. How sick patients are and the complexity of care required at a given time are the most influential factors for wait times.”

On Dec. 30, the family wasn’t seeing any improvement, so Jain’s brother took his kids back to Seattle where they were treated at the city’s children’s hospital.

One was given antibiotics for an infection that had formed, the other was given Tamiflu.

Jain and his parents also booked a virtual appointment and were prescribed antibiotics in case of an infection.

“The problem is that nobody saw us, there was no physical doctor that checked us, so it was just based on our symptoms,” he explained.

Jain said the state of B.C.’s health-care system is dwindling and only getting worse as the population grows and walk-in clinics close.

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He said something needs to be done to improve the access to healthcare.

“I think the simple answer is get more doctors,” he said.

Island Health said recruitment and retention of health-care workers and physicians is a key priority, adding it is taking action “with local, national and international recruitment campaigns focused on attracting staff to the region, and this work is ongoing.”

Jain said he hopes recruitment efforts are increased going forward to relieve some of the pressure on the system.

Mackenzie ReadMackenzie Read

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