View Royal’s Eagle Creek Medical walk-in announced it will be closing its doors on April 15, due to the departure of family doctors George Zabakolas and Chelsie Velikovsky.
While the clinic says it has put out job postings for the vacant positions, they don’t expect them to be filled in time for the April 15 closure date, when roughly 3,000 people will be left without a family doctor.
In a statement to their patients, Zabakolas and Velikovsky said they will be ending their practices in Victoria and will no longer be the family doctor for any of their existing patients. They will still be living in Victoria but working remotely to provide care for US patients. The husband and wife duo told Global News that the strain of looking after 1,500 patients each while raising their 2 children was too much to handle.
Zabakolas told CHEK the current pay-for-service model is unsustainable. On average, he’s paid $30 per visit while having to also factor in rent and staffing. Zabakolas says many doctors take on more patients than they can handle just to pay the bills.
Eagle Creek says costs to lease space have grown substantially over the last several years and that the high cost of living in Greater Victoria has forced a rise in staffing costs. This is in addition to supply chain issues driving up the cost of supplies. Eagle Creek says that the rate of pay for physicians has not kept pace with these rising costs.
Eagle Creek was able to expand their clinic by over 2,000 square feet in 2020 and bring on 2 new family doctors as well as 2 new nurse practitioners. The new physicians are still bringing on new patients as part of the PCN Expansion Project, however, the waitlist has long since closed to new sign-ups.
The closure of Eagle Creek exacerbates the longstanding primary-physician shortage in Greater Victoria. BC’s Ministry of Health says that to address the provincewide shortage it has committed to creating 85 primary care networks, 40 urgent and primary care centres, and up to 15 Indigenous primary care centres. Currently there are 6 primary care centres in Greater Victoria, as well as 2 community health centres. In 2021, 2 new UPCCs and a PCN opened locally, but wait lists for primary doctors are still long due to closures and staff leaving the James Bay UPCC.