The wait to see a walk-in clinic doctor can be painful and frustrating.
“Two-and-a-half hours,” said Kelowna resident Ruby Fung. “I came in at 9:30 a.m., and 12 (p.m.) I came out.”
While long, according to a new report, that wait time isn’t unusual, nor was it far from the average wait time in Kelowna.
“Wait times didn’t just go up; they went up pretty significantly, especially in B.C.,” said Teddy Wickland, vice-president of operations at Medimap.
The wait times at Canadian walk-in clinics have soared, says Medimap, a tech company which tracks how long wait times are at various clinics.
“The 2022 data was just released this past week,” Wickland said. “The average wait time in Canada was up to 37 minutes on average, regardless of where you were located last year. Before, it was 25, so we saw about a 12-minute increase.”
According to Medimap, the average wait time at walk-in clinics throughout British Columbia in 2022 was 79 minutes. That’s 21 minutes longer than in 2021, and 36 minutes longer than in 2020.
The Okanagan and surrounding areas also saw the trend of increasing wait times.
In Kelowna, the average wait time in 2022 was 122 minutes, an increase of 31 minutes from 2021.
Vernon was at 106 minutes, marking an increase of 30 minutes. And the wait in Salmon Arm last year was 65 minutes, a jump from 53 minutes in 2021.
Penticton statistics were not available because not enough clinics use Medimap for accurate data.
A shortage of family physicians is being blamed for the growing pressure on walk-in clinics, as more doctors retire or switch specialties with better hours and better pay.
“It’s a specialty in healthcare that is vastly underpaid compared to their peers. They work much longer hours than most, and so it’s not a specialty that’s very attractive for new graduates,” Wickland said.
But it’s hoped a new pay model the provincial government introduced last week will help recruit and retain family physicians.
The new pay structure will boost annual salaries from roughly $250,000 to $385,000.
Doctors will not only get compensated for the number of patients they see, but also for the complexity of their care. They will also be paid more for reviewing lab results, consulting with other medical professionals, and administrative work.
Wickland said other measures B.C. is already pursuing should also help ease the pressure on walk-in clinics.
“Expanding the scope of pharmacists that was announced in October to treat 13 minor ailments. That’s one step in the right direction,” he said.
“I would also look to licensing other types of health care providers, like nurse-practitioner-led primary care clinics — again, with the goal of just getting more supply into the system to help patients. And then, you know, the adoption of telemedicine.”
Global News reached out to B.C.’s health ministry for comment on the increasingly long wait times.