With a local doctor retiring July 31, and the other doctor in the practice, undecided about his future practice, many more valley residents will soon be without a primary care doctor.
“Broadway Medical Clinic will stop functioning as it is currently operating, on July 31, 2022,” the clinic announced last week.
“Dr. M.M. (Marius) Scholtz will be retiring on July 31, and Dr. Fred Strauss will communicate his future plans sometime soon.”
The announcement goes on to explain the clinic has been trying for five years to find replacement doctors, or doctors to join or share the practice.
“The impact will be serious,” said local pharmacist Rob Klotz at Shoppers Drug Mart in Smithers.
Klotz went on to explain both doctors have large practices, and with the loss of one doctor or potentially two, the pressure then will be transferred to the emergency department of the Bulkley Valley Hospital.
“Northern Health recognizes the importance of access to primary care in communities across the region,” said Eryn Collins, regional manager, public affairs and media relations for Northern Health.
“We are working closely with the local Medical Staff Association and the Pacific Northwest Divisions of Family Practice, on active recruitment to current vacancies. These recruitment efforts are ongoing, and we are hopeful that they’ll be successful in attracting new primary care providers to the community.”
People who are currently without a primary care provider, or who are in need of primary care support in the future, do have some options. Residents of the Northern Health region can call the NH Virtual Clinic at 1-844-645-7811 (daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.) to access a family doctor or nurse practitioner.
People who need health advice can also call HealthLink BC (8-1-1), or visit www.HealthLinkBC.ca for non-emergency health information from nurses, dietitians, and pharmacists 24 hours a day, seven days per week.
“B.C.’s growing doctor shortage is a long-term problem and team-based care with nurse practitioners is part of the solution that the province’s physicians support,” Health Minister Adrian Dix has said.
Opposition MLAs highlighted emergency ward closures in small communities and burnout among doctors and nurses as they work overtime to keep hospital services open, while family doctors close practices.
“Almost one million people in British Columbia do not have a doctor, and this minister continues to say everything’s okay,” B.C. Liberal health critic Shirley Bond told the legislature May 12.
“Doctors are closing their practices, and many more have indicated they will do that because they feel undervalued,” Bond said.
Smithers is advertising for three family or general practitioners, a pediatrics doctor, and an emergency room locum, on the Northern Health website.
There are no doctors in the Bulkley Valley who are accepting any new patients at this time.
An online petition calling on the province to take action on the doctor shortage has been signed by more 31,000 people since it was launched three months ago, following a report that found one-in-five British Columbians currently don’t have a family doctor.