Opening of new primary care model in Whistler made urgent by lack of family doctors

Click to play video: 'Whistler latest B.C. community to lose another family medical clinic'
Whistler latest B.C. community to lose another family medical clinic
The closure is only exacerbating the family physician shortage in the province. As Aaron McArthur reports, it's putting greater urgency on a new model of non-profit primary health care in the Whistler area, and away from the traditional family practice – May 12, 2022

B.C.’s family doctor shortage is now impacting the community of Whistler.

Town Plaza Medical Clinic closed its door earlier this month as two physicians retired and were not able to attract a new doctor to take over.

The shortage of family practices has been a growing issue in the region.

The Whistler 360 Health Collaborative Society has now unveiled a plan for a primary care centre in the region.

According to the organization, the issue is not a doctor shortage but one of full-service family practices.

It says patient care has grown so complex that it requires more comprehensive record-keeping and patient tracking. It says small family practices are not adequately supported and that staff is hard to find and retain.

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As a result, fewer doctors are choosing to run a full-service family practice.

Click to play video: 'Long emergency room wait times raise concern'
Long emergency room wait times raise concern

The collaborative society would like to develop a facility where physicians can treat patients without having to deal with administrative and overhead costs.

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“What we’re hoping to do is attract and retain more doctors and nurse practitioners in full-service family practice, and we think the way to do that is … eliminate the administrative overhead, a burden that they face, and also provide an environment that is great for them to work at,” Carol Leacy with the Whistler 360 Health Collaborative Society told Global News. “So they can all work at the top of their game. No one went to medical school to be a small business owner.”

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Currently, there are about five to seven full-time general practitioners in the village who work exclusively in the urgent care clinic.

The hope is to build up to 14 to 16 equivalents in order to care for all the full-time residents as well as the seasonal workers and visitors in the Whistler area.

This news comes as another B.C. community is facing the loss of its only medical clinic.

Since January, the residents of Ucluelet, a community on the west coast of Vancouver Island, have been trying to keep their only family medical practice.

The lease on the Ucluelet Medical Clinic is up at the end of May and despite the practice serving about 3,000 people, the owners said it is losing money and there are no plans to keep it open.

“I think it would be detrimental to the community,” resident Alana Carswell told Global News. “It’s such an important thing for us and we have lots of people here and need the health care, so I’d be sad to see it go.”

If the clinic closes, residents would then have to travel to Tofino or even Port Alberni for medical care.

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Click to play video: 'Ucluelet’s only medical clinic may be shutting its doors'
Ucluelet’s only medical clinic may be shutting its doors

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