In April, Premier John Horgan with Health Minister Adrian Dix, Mayor Maja Tait and Vancouver Island Health Authority CEO Kathy MacNeil, joined to announce an expansion to health-care services in Sooke. The promised expansion will take place this spring, but will add no new doctors to the mix. (Tim Collins - Sooke News Mirror)

Health-care expansion in Sooke on track—sort of

Additional medical staff will be in place by spring

One of the two health-care initiatives announced for Sooke last spring appears to be moving forward. Sort of.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announced Friday that the added space for the West Coast Family Medical Clinic will be ready this spring.

RELATED: Expanded health-care announced

“As part of the primary health-care strategy the premier announced in 2018, we had a goal of improving team-based primary care throughout B.C.; in Sooke that involved the expansion of the West Coast Family Medical Clinic by strengthening and improving the health-care services available,” Dix said in a statement.

“When fully operational, the provincial government will provide more than $1 million annually to support team-based care at the West Coast Family Medical Clinic through the recruitment of two general practitioners, one nurse practitioner and two registered nurses, who will join the existing team.”

The approach is part of the primary health-care strategy announced by Premier John Horgan in 2018 which stressed the need for a team-based approach that allowed for a better way of working for doctors and other health care professionals.

ALSO READ: Problem exists throughout B.C.

It’s an approach that has Mayor Maja Tait’s support.

“There’s a difference between this concept and just a walk-in clinic approach,” Tait said.

“In primary care you have dietitians and other specialists who follow you through life, especially those with chronic health needs. People often don’t need to just get a prescription. They need wrap around care and a doctor and others who can develop a relationship with patients.”

The expanded services at the West Coast Medical Clinic still have to clear the hurdle of attracting the two additional doctors that are at the heart of the plan.

“The South Island Divisions of Family Practice, with support from Island Health, are actively working to recruit family physicians,” Dix said.

They’ve posted the opportunities online and are hoping that some physicians will express interest in the positions.

Despite the statement from Dix, the two new doctors at the clinic will not be “additional doctors.”

“Unfortunately, the two doctors they’re bringing in will only replace the two doctors who we lost in August. It will bring us back up to our previous complement of nine physicians, but there’ll be no increase to the capacity of our historical practice,” Dr. Anton Rabien of the West Coast Medical Clinic said.

“Our target for the expansion was 12 doctors, but we’ll not see that happen. At least not now.”

The main problem, said Rabien, is that new doctors graduating in family medicine don’t tend to stay in B.C.

“I can’t really blame them. They can go to Alberta and get an instant raise. It’s a goofy situation where the provinces compete with one another and it really hurts us in B.C.”

Rabien added that he also can’t yet say if the addition of the nurse practitioner and two registered nurses will have a substantial effect on the practice.

“We hope so, but the concept hasn’t really been tested as yet. It’s new for B.C. and the jury is out on how much time they’ll free up for the doctors,” Rabien said.

“We’re sort of the test bed and we’ll see how much difference it makes. Call me in August and I’ll have a better idea.”

At present, Rabien’s clinic sees about 5,000 patients a month but is still forced to turn away 15 to 30 patients a day; patients that they simply don’t have the time to see.

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