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Doctor shortage forces closure of Victoria-area medical clinic

Victoria -

After 50 years of service, the Gordon Head Treatment Centre is closing its doors on Aug. 19.

One of the physicians at the clinic at 1595 McKenzie Ave. in Saanich said the small team of doctors can’t keep up with patient demand.

“We’ve tried very hard to meet that demand in the community,” said Dr. Layne Woodburn, who works part-time at the centre. “Now we can’t and we really feel very, very badly about that,”

Five of the treatment centre’s doctors retired within the last year, he said. Now, another doctor — who took on 42 per cent of the clinic’s hours — is relocating.

The clinic tried recruiting more physicians, with no luck.

With the retirements and impending closure, Woodburn said patients have been “left at the altar twice.”

“This building used to be full of [general practitioners]. There’s nobody in this building anymore,” Woodburn told CTV News.

“The group of us have made the Herculean effort to maintain a level of care and continuity of care for a large number of people and we’ve failed and I’m very disappointed.”

Patient files and some of the remaining part-time doctors — who Woodburn said are all over the age of 64 — will move to the Lansdowne Medical Clinic at 1641 Hillside Ave. The transition leaves patients with mobility issues in the lurch, he added.

“If we’re folding in with another group, it’s almost a delusion of our ability to meet those needs,” he said.

The closure is a symptom of B.C.’s years-long family physician shortage.

The province says there are 1,378 family physicians on Vancouver Island, which has a population of over 800,000.

The health ministry said it’s working to recruit more doctors as many people struggle to find a family physician.

“Government increased [University of British Columbia] resident training from 170 to 174 entry-level positions in family medicine,” ministry spokesperson Krystal Thomson said in a statement. “As a result, UBC now has the largest family medicine resident training program in Canada.”

B.C. launched a “team-based primary care strategy” in 2018, connecting doctors with residents of an area, while staff like nurses and social workers help with the workload. The province has created 53 primary care networks, with another 18 in the works.

Current strategies don’t quite cut it, said Dr. Vanessa Young, co-chair of the South Island Division of Family Practice.

“We are still dozens of family docs short, but these efforts are steps in the right direction,” Young said in an email.

More funding is needed to help physicians cover their clinics’ overhead costs, she said, along with added investment in the team-based approach at family clinics.

“[We also need] vastly increased supports for provincially funded mental health care available in our communities to our patients, which would allow family docs to take on more patients for their primary care needs, and improve access to this care,” Young said.

Meanwhile, a Saanich-based family physician who closed his practice recently, said better compensation would help recruit new grads as the old guard retires.

"If you pay, I think, at par with other provinces, B.C. will get their fair share of young doctors here,” said Dr. Peter Meyer, who retired three months ago.

In the meantime, he said patient care is falling short. "There’s really good research that shows better health outcomes when you’ve got consistent longitudinal care.” Top Stories

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