There is no replacement for a retiring family physician in Okanagan Falls, leaving many patients in the small South Okanagan town scrambling to find another doctor by this spring.
In a letter to patients, Dr. James Robertson said he is closing his family practice on Mar. 31 to retire after 40 years on the job, but he has not been able to find a replacement.
“Making the decision to retire has not been easy, and leaving the practice with so many wonderful patients will be the most difficult part,” the letter said.
Roberston’s son Andrew is believed to be continuing his family practice at the same clinic but it is not known how many additional patients he will be able to take on.
The retiring physician is urging his patients to find another doctor.
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“You might ask family or friends if their doctor is taking on new patients,” the letter said. “In the meantime you can go to the walk-in clinic at Apple Plaza or London Drugs.
It is a hard pill to swallow for 73-year-old Chris Van Emmerik.
“It’s going to leave a big gap,” she said on Sunday.
At the Royal Canadian Legion in Okanagan Falls others worried a struggling local economy will be a deterrent to attracting a new doctor to town.
“There’s not much industry here, there is more retirees,” Douglas Rodgers said.
“We don’t have an awful lot to offer here as far as businesses go, we’re working on it,” said Carol Kerr.
The South Okanagan-Similkameen Division of Family Practice said recruitment efforts are underway to replace Dr.Robertson but there’s no easy cure as B.C. is facing a doctor shortage.
“There is a doctor shortage everywhere and I think there’s a really wide market that physicians and all healthcare professionals can choose from,” said executive director Tracy St. Claire.
“I think it’s just finding the person who is the right fit who wants to live here.”
In the meantime, patients will be forced to travel to Penticton or Oliver for their medical needs.
“If there is a doctor out there that would like to live in a nice little town please come and take it over,” Van Emmerick added.
Global News was unable to reach Robertson for comment on Sunday.