Another family doctor is set to close up their practice in the West Shore, leaving Colwood resident Ian Ward looking for a doctor for his son.
Ward, who also sits on Colwood city council, said his son Liam, 15, has been with the doctor since birth. But now with the doctor retiring and nobody currently in line to take over the practice, Ward’s son is one of many who will lose their family doctor come June 30.
When that time comes, Ward will be one of thousands sitting on wait lists for a family doctor in the West Shore.
“I don’t hold out a lot of faith on sort of wait lists program to deliver any results,” Ward said. “So, like other people, I’m just trying to network as much as I can, talk to people. Someone mentioned they have a family doctor and just ask, ‘Hey, are they taking new patients?’ You really have to advocate for your family. You find yourself in a position of uncomfortably, almost hoping that you can leverage personal relationships for others to inquire of their doctor, if they might be willing to see a friend of a friend, and that kind of thing.”
This is the second time a member of Ward’s family has lost their doctor to retirement in recent years. His mother, who has multiple sclerosis, lost her family doctor due to retirement two years ago.
“At her age and with now having to take her mobility scooter and stand outside an urgent care clinic and walk-in clinics to get the support that she needs – that was frustrating enough,” he said, adding people who have complex long-term conditions like his mother aren’t served well by bouncing around clinics, seeing different doctors every time.
“It’s tiresome, I think, and frustrating – not only the wait times to see people, but then having to sort of reinvent the wheel in terms of discussing solutions and things over and over again.”
While his situation on the doctor front may be increasingly common, Ward is in the special position of being in an elected position. He said he wasn’t hopeful of a quick solution, noting how the speed of growth in the West Shore is exacerbating the problem, but added that any fixes would need a collaborative approach.
“We’re not short a doctor or two, we’re short a significant amount, and the challenge is that those numbers are growing. This is a nonpartisan issue. This isn’t finger pointing at the current government – this isn’t an NDP problem. This isn’t a BC United problem or a Green Party problem. This is really a problem that has emerged over many years through various incarnations of government. I think it’s truly the only way to address it is as a nonpartisan solution that brings everybody to the table.”
Ward said ideas like helping provide affordable housing to family doctors or establishing a turnkey clinic that would allow new doctors to set up practices in a ready-to-go building have merits but also challenges, adding groups like the Saunders Family Foundation are doing good work towards solutions.
“Unfortunately, I’m still pretty pessimistic. I just don’t see – there’s a lot of talk and little action right now.”