Three thousand people will lose their doctor in April as the two doctors at Eagle Creek Medical Clinic in View Royal have announced they are leaving and closing their practice.
Dr. George Zabakolas and Dr. Chelsie Velikovsky are moving to work out of the United States via private “online-only” clinics, according to the Eagle Creek clinic’s website. Their general practitioner practice, as well as the walk-in clinic, will close as of April 15.
“Because our walk-in clinic is already barely functional as is (re. local physician shortages), and we cannot possibly handle the influx of 3,000 newly orphaned patients, we have made the impossibly difficult decision to close this as well on April 15th, 2022,” the clinic added on its website.
While the clinic’s other doctors and nurse practitioners will continue to work out of the clinic, the walk-in clinic will pivot to a doctor-of-the-day program. In a letter to patients, Zabakolas said the clinic would try and place high-needs patients with other physicians, but ultimately they could make no guarantees.
Among the people who are bracing for the loss of their doctor are View Royal Mayor David Screech and his wife. Screech said it is sad to see the doctors leave and he was concerned about the prospect of becoming one of the more than 100,000 people on the Island currently without a family doctor.
Screech posted about the news on Facebook, calling out the province for their lack of support for general practitioners.
“Why would any GP really want to open up a family practice at this point, when they have to worry about rent, hiring staff, the whole nine yards,” Screech said in an interview with Black Press. “To me, the whole model is broken. And the province has a responsibility, because there’s a lot of people, my wife and I are soon to join them, of people that are getting subpar health care.”
In a previous interview with Black Press, Langford Coun. Matt Sahlstrom said one solution in the future could be a new health-care centre he’s proposed which would rent clinic space for doctors at lower rates than they’d normally pay.
While Screech said local municipalities could contribute to keeping GP’s and that View Royal would look at every option, municipalities can’t make significant changes and the province would need to step up.
“There always tends to be an attitude with doctors that, ‘Oh, they’re okay, they make so much money,’” he said. “Clearly we’re losing them because of that pervasive attitude and I think the province has to take the lead and get that attitude to shift and get a bit of public sentiment on the side of the doctors.”
Eagle Creek clinic manager Aziza Yassin said it has confirmed the hiring of one new general practitioner who is set to arrive in August. They will be able to take some of the patients who lost their doctors, but not all 3,000, she said. The clinic has put out job postings, but hiring is proving difficult, Yassin added.
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