Last-minute deal reached to keep Ucluelet, B.C.’s only clinic open for next 18 months

Signs are posted along the Pacific Rim Highway in between Tofino and Ucluelet, on Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Melissa Renwick

Residents of the Vancouver Island community of Ucluelet, B.C., will continue to have access to a medical clinic, after an 11th-hour deal.

The lease on the Ucluelet Medical Clinic, which serves about 3,000 people, is up at the end of May and its operators had previously said it was losing money and they did not plan to keep it open.

Read more: Vancouver Island community facing closure of only family medical clinic

Island Health says it has reached an agreement with the landlord and owner Dr. Carrie Marshall and two other doctors to keep the clinic running for another 18 months as the health authority develops a primary care network for the West Coast.

Under the deal, Island Health will help cover the overhead costs for the clinic, including utilities, janitorial services and office and medical supplies.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Ucluelet’s only medical clinic may be shutting its doors' Ucluelet’s only medical clinic may be shutting its doors
Ucluelet’s only medical clinic may be shutting its doors – May 11, 2022

“This provides health authority Community Health Services staff the ability to work out of the community with dedicated workspace, and for storage of equipment and supplies,” Island Health said.

“Currently these staff work from offices, and have equipment and supplies stored, in Tofino.”

Read more: 40% of British Columbians afraid of losing their family doctor, poll finds

The doctors will also be able to make use of Island Health’s group purchasing abilities to get a better price on medical and office supplies.

Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noel praised the deal, which he said would keep crucial medical care close to home for residents.

Story continues below advertisement

“The entire community, as well as myself and Council would like to thank Island Health and the physician group for their hard work in resolving a short term solution,” he said.

“We look forward to continuing this work to solidify a long-term solution towards a primary care network.”

Click to play video: 'Health Matters: BC continues to deal with doctor shortage, clinic closures' Health Matters: BC continues to deal with doctor shortage, clinic closures
Health Matters: BC continues to deal with doctor shortage, clinic closures – May 14, 2022

Island Health said it would work with the Long Beach Chapter of the Rural and Remote Division of Frailly Practice along with local Indigenous communities to develop a primary care network service plan.

Read more: Hundreds rally at B.C. legislature calling for solution to family doctor shortage

Such a network will link family doctors with nurses and nurse practitioners, mental health workers and other health-care staff to offer patients a team-based approach to care, it said.

Story continues below advertisement

The averted closure comes as family physicians across the province warn of a brewing crisis.

One key complaint has been that B.C.’s fee-for-service model, which pays physicians a fixed rate per patient they see, has not kept up with rising overhead costs, while leaving doctors with hours of administrative work to run a business on top of treating the public.

Sponsored content