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B.C. has longest walk-in doctor wait times in Canada, report finds

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If you are without a family doctor in the capital region, it is no secret that accessing a walk-in clinic can be a challenge. A new report is now showing just how bad it has gotten.

Chantel lives in Langford, B.C., and has a family doctor, but when her son developed an ear infection, she couldn’t wait and had to turn to a walk-in clinic for help.

“They were actually full for the entire day,” said the mother of two.

It’s a common story heard time and time again, up and down Vancouver Island.

A report conducted by Medimap, an online walk-in clinic resource that shows estimated wait times at clinics throughout Canada, is shining a light on how bad it actually is.

“B.C., in and of itself, is the worst province across Canada,” said Thomas Jankowski, CEO of Medimap.

In this province, North Vancouver has the longest wait times with people waiting, on average, 187 minutes to see a doctor.

In second place sits Victoria, with an average wait time of 107 minutes.

“We have a supply and demand issue,” said Jankowski.

He says there are a number of reasons why our wait times are so bad – doctors retiring out of the profession, high immigration, and B.C.’s new compensation structure for physicians.

The changes "pay doctors for longitudinal support as opposed to individual appointments,” said the CEO.

The idea is that care will improve, giving doctors more time to spend with patients. While Health Minister Adrian Dix credits the pay structure with increasing the number of family doctors in B.C. by hundreds, critics say it has had an adverse effect on walk-in clinics.

“Now the doctors have shifted into this model that pays them more but are often, at times, providing up to 25 per cent less appointment slots to people,” said Jankowski.

As an example of the impact, two walk-in clinics on the Saanich Peninsula will no longer be accepting walk-ins as of March 31. Instead the clinics will focus its doctors on those patients already attached to a family physician.

Dix noted there are 708 more family doctors working in the province this year than last, plus dozens of nurse practitioners – and said B.C. has also added more Urgent and Primary Care Centres.

"There are now 30 of them," he said.

Those Urgent Primary Care Centres have also faced numerous challenges since opening their doors in 2018, include doctor shortages, overcapacity issues and their own long wait times.

Those Urgent Primary Care Centres are not reflected in Medimap’s report.

“We have no way of accessing the Urgent Primary Care Centre data in B.C. specifically,” said Jankowski.

That means we don’t know the extent of how much those Urgent Primary Care Centres are relieving the pressure on the walk-in clinics we have left. 

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