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B.C. has 2nd highest walk-in clinic wait times in Canada, with 7 cities over an hour: study

B.C. wait times longer for walk-in clinics
A new report says B.C. has some of the longest wait times for walk-in clinics in the country. John Hua tells us where it's worse, and what the NDP government says it's going to do about it.

With flu season in full swing, people across B.C. are waiting to see a doctor, any doctor — and new data shows some cities in the province are seeing some staggering wait times at walk-in clinics.

The data, collected by Medimaps, tracked clinic wait times in six provinces across the country: B.C., Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia.

READ MORE: Nursing shortage forces B.C. interior emergency room to close overnight. It’s not the first time

B.C. was found to be in the second spot on the list, with an average wait time of 50 minutes (behind Nova Scotia’s 69 minutes), and seven of the top 10 cities with the highest wait times are in B.C.

Of those, three Vancouver Island municipalities — Sidney, Langford and Victoria — reportedly have patients waiting an hour-and-a-half or more to see a doctor. In Sidney, Medimaps says the average wait time is two hours, topping the national list.

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Medimaps
Medimaps. Medimaps

Residents say it can be even longer.

“Sometimes you got to wait four hours,” one said. Others pointed to short operating hours and long lineups before clinics even open.

Critical doctor shortage in Esquimalt
Critical doctor shortage in Esquimalt

Medimaps says the data comes from its online clinic wait time index, which has access to wait time information for 70 per cent of all walk-in clinics in Canada. Those clinics update their wait times to the site every 30 minutes.

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CEO Blake Adam says the wait times can be pinned to a shortage of doctors in B.C., which not only forces people without a family physician to seek care at walk-ins but also affects those who do have their own doctor.

“[There are] those people who can’t get a family doctor, or who have a family doctor and can’t get in to see them for a week for example,” he said. “For those people, they either end up in the emergency or they end up in walk-in clinics.”

READ MORE: More doctors, new clinic planned for South Okanagan, Similkameen: B.C. government

While Vancouver Island is seeing the highest wait times, frustration is also high in the Lower Mainland. There, Maple Ridge is seeing an average wait of 91 minutes, while Pitt Meadows has an average of 75 minutes.

The rest of the top five — Coquitlam, Vancouver and Port Moody — have an average wait time of just under an hour.

Medimaps
Medimaps. Medimaps

Adam points out that B.C.’s average wait time is twice that of Ontario’s, at 25 minutes, despite cities in that province like Kingston, Barrie and Cambridge seeing waits of over 70 minutes.

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Alberta’s average wait time is the lowest on the list, at 23 minutes.

Medimaps
Medimaps. Medimaps

Medimap’s data has not been released to the public or the provincial government, prompting Health Minister Adrian Dix to ask for a copy of the full report to take a deeper look at the numbers.

Dix did acknowledge roughly 750,000 British Columbians did not have a family doctor when the NDP took power in 2017, and said his ministry is continuing to work on lowering that number to zero.

READ MORE: ‘Dr. Internet?’ Poll finds 1 in 6 British Columbians rely solely on the web for medical advice

“This is a significant situation and we’re taking action,” he said, citing the opening of dozens of primary care centres and networks, along with 200 new general practitioners hired.

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“A lot of people need a doctor in B.C., a lot of people need a nurse practitioner, and we’re working hard to meet this challenge.”

—With files from John Hua

New report warns of looming doctor shortage in B.C.
New report warns of looming doctor shortage in B.C.