Barely a year after finally finding a family doctor, these Victoria patients have lost theirs

B.C.’s primary care centres, which are supposed to alleviate the family doctor shortage, can’t
keep up

Kathryn Marlow · CBC News · Posted: Oct 08, 2021

Victoria residents and roommates Bill Sumberg and Elaine Laberge are both patients at the James Bay Urgent and
Primary Care Centre. Sumberg’s doctor left the practice in August and Laberge’s will leave in November. (Ken Mizokoshi/ CBC)

[Excerpts] Patients at an urgent and primary care centre in Victoria, B.C., are feeling
disappointed and abandoned after several doctors at the clinic have
announced their departures within 18 months of opening day.

The James Bay Urgent and Primary Care Centre, which opened in April 2020,
has had at least three family doctors leave or announce plans to leave since

Urgent and primary care centres, or UPCCs, are part of the B.C.
government’s efforts to get primary health care for more British
Columbians. The centres are both funded and run publicly, as opposed to
traditional doctor’s offices, which are private businesses.

B.C. has the second highest rate of residents without a regular health-care
provider. According to Statistics Canada, that rate was 17.7 per cent in 2019,
up from 16.2 per cent in 2015. Only Quebec fares worse.

UPCCs are staffed with doctors, but also nurse practitioners, nurses, and
sometimes other health workers like mental health specialists.

They are supposed to act as both walk-in clinics that provide urgent care
and a possible alternative to an emergency room visit, and a family doctor’s
office where you can be “attached” to a health-care team — a place that
would have your file, and where you could make appointments for checkups
to manage ongoing health concerns.

Fancy walk-in clinic’

Damien Contandriopoulos, a public health researcher, says the troubles at
the James Bay UPCC are a sign that the model isn’t working to solve B.C.’s
family doctor problems.

Contandriopoulos says the centres are not a bad idea on paper, but it’s a
challenge for one location, and one set of staff, to be what he calls a “fancy
walk-in clinic” and a family practice all at once.

Patients have been told they will still be treated by the clinic. A letter from
one departing doctor said the clinic “will commit to offer timely access to
care, to the best of the team’s ability and as reasonably as possible given the
clinical circumstances.”

According to the clinic’s website, with 2,298 patients, it cannot add any more
so it “implemented a temporary pause on accepting new applicants” in

Health Minister Adrian Dix acknowledged the problems at the James Bay
clinic, and said “we’re going to work to get that clinic staffed up.”

However, he said the UPCC structure is “working extremely well” and care
centres in places like Victoria, Nanaimo, Vancouver, and Prince George
“have been a godsend in the pandemic.”