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Vernon’s mayor concerned about walk in clinic closure

VERNON – In Vernon it may soon become much more difficult to see a physician at a walk in clinic.

The Vernon Family Doctors Clinic, one of the city’s three clinics, is set to close on March 19.

“Our lease is ending at that time but also we have [not been] successful at maintaining [an] adequate amount of physician supply,” says the clinic’s medical director, Dr. Jomar Barnard.

The clinic is having trouble having enough doctors to fill all the shifts because of physicians retiring, some doctors choosing not to work at the walk in, and others facing large workloads at their own practices. Barnard acknowledges the closure will have an effect on health care in Vernon.

“We do recognize that yes it is a significant impact on the patient population … and also on the emergency room,” he says.

Vernon Mayor Akbal Mund says the city’s clinics are already busy, and is concerned the closure will simply drive more people to the ER.

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“What would happen if a mother whose child was sick [wants] to get in to see her doctor?” he says. “[She] is probably going to go to a walk in clinic. Now that walk in clinic is full. Where is she going to wind up? Generally [she will go to] the hospital.”

Global Okanagan requested an interview with Interior Health (IH), but received a written statement in response.

“It’s not clear whether the clinic closure will have any impact on IH facilities or services, but we are in the process of evaluating that,” wrote an Interior Health spokesperson.

For its part the provincial health ministry suggests something may be in the works to fill the gap.

“We have been advised that no doctors are leaving Vernon because of this closure and we understand there is work underway to help meet the needs in the community,” wrote a ministry spokesperson.