A lack of family physicians in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area is worsening. (Pixabay photo)

A lack of family physicians in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area is worsening. (Pixabay photo)

Doctor shortage in Parksville Qualicum Beach area worsens

‘Hopefully, we’ll have some good news fairly soon’

A Qualicum Beach doctor’s office will close on Nov. 30, adding to a growing concern about a lack of family physicians in the Parksville Qualicum Beach area.

Dr. Hennie Putter took over the practice of Dr. Penelope Barlett and Dr. Peter Haslett after their move to Halifax for family reasons. Putter has since announced the closure of the practice, stating personal health and family reasons.

Dr. Mark Morris, co-chair of the Central Island Division of Family Practice and Evelyn Clark, executive director, say that the gap in services is a significant challenge, and a complex one to solve. Currently, Morris says there are seven doctors including Putter that service Qualicum Beach, and 17 in Parksville including a locum, or covering doctor.

Although calculations vary as to exactly how many doctors are needed to fill the gap in PQB vary, Morris says that the area should be serviced by approximately 30 family physicians and/or nurse practitioners.

READ MORE: Doctor shortage remains ‘critical’ in Parksville Qualicum Beach

“When you look at the amount of calls we’re getting, when you look at the number of people who are out there saying they don’t have a family doctor – obviously we’re looking in the thousands,” said Morris.

Morris, who works at the Parksville Medical Clinic, says they’ve been successful in recruiting some new doctors, but that mostly the new recruits simply serve to fill the gaps left by retiring practitioners.

The doctor shortage isn’t new or unique to the PQB area, although there are some factors that make recruitment and retention in the area more difficult. Morris and Clark say they’re working on solutions and that they hope to be able to make a positive announcement in early 2020.

“We’re having conversations with the Ministry of Health currently, both in partnership with Island Health and with our family physicians and NPs. So we’re not doing this on our own, we’re doing this as a collective committee,” said Clark.

Although the Central Island Division of Family Practice has an employee in charge of active recruitment, there are several issues they’ve identified that are making the PQB area less-than-desirable for new doctors. Part of it is structural; in Qualicum Beach, many existing practices are small offices. Morris says that many new physicians are looking for larger offices with more support to deal with the business end of the medical practice.

READ MORE: B.C. launches plan to tackle doctor shortage, emergency room congestion

“Even if we were to attract six physicians, ‘where would we put them?’ is the question of the day. And so part of the work is us talking to the Ministry of Health through the primary care network to negotiate maybe trying to find clinic space, or modernize some clinic space that we could create, so that we could get family practitioners in to help us out,” said Clark.

She also cited the difficulty of care for an area that has one of Canada’s oldest populations.

“That’s a specific type of skill set that isn’t necessarily the interest of a lot of physicians, or all physicians for sure. There has to be the ability for that person to engage in that type of care,” said Clark.

Clark says that as more people move here for their retirement, many aren’t thinking of finding a doctor before they arrive, and often end up surprised that there is a lack of service in the area once they’ve settled.

Clark stressed the issue is a difficult problem to tackle, with any solutions needing to be a multi-faceted approach.

“This is a big challenge, and it’s a complicated environment to move into. It isn’t as simple as unlocking a door and starting a practice. And I think that people are impatient and concerned about getting a family physician. But from our point of view, there’s so much more to it than just putting your shingle out. We’re doing the best we can in a really complicated environment. And hopefully, we’ll have some good news fairly soon,” she said.

READ MORE: Family doctor shortage in Parksville Qualicum Beach: new clinic said to be a pilot project

For now, there aren’t many options for people looking to become attached to a primary care provider.

Morris says that many people end up going to Nanaimo or Courtenay for service, where there are often more doctors available. That’s a solution that Putter has offered to his patients.

Former Premier of Newfoundland Brian Peckford, who currently lives in Parksville, wrote a letter to Minister of Health Adrian Dix regarding concerns about the lack of family physicians.

Peckford claims in the letter that the lack of doctors contravenes accessibility requirements in the Canada Health Act, in light of the fact that people are driving more than 70 kilometres from Parksville to Courtenay to obtain services.

A wait list called a Patient Attachment Mechanism (PAM) is available for residents in Parksville Qualicum Beach and surrounding areas. Those in need can head to https://surveys.divisionsbc.ca/pam.aspx to register.

Clark says approximately 500 people per year are taken off the list, but recommends that those in need find a doctor in another region to cover their short-term needs.

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Patricia Taylor and Debra Strut at the Salvation Army on Friday, Nov. 27, handing out winter boots and gift bags to those in need. Taylor says they'll be back until all her supplies are gone.(Mandy Moraes photo)
Parksville residents distribute gifts and winter boots in Salvation Army parking lot

‘I’m hoping to open the eyes of the community to realize that everybody has value’

Qualicum Beach resident Harold MacDougall won $75,000 off a Casino Royale II Scratch & Win ticket, purchased the ticket at Qualicum Foods on Memorial Avenue. (BCLC photo)
Qualicum Beach man $75K richer thanks to scratch-and-win ticket windfall

MacDougall plans on trips to Cape Breton and Scotland

Regional District of Nanaimo will be receiving $1.17 million from the B.C. government in COVID-19 safe restart grant money. (News Bulletin file)
Regional District of Nanaimo directors getting started on budgeting decisions

Proposed tax requisitions for 2021 range from 7.3-per cent increase to 2.2-per cent decrease

David Darmadi, owner of Kalvas - The Log House restaurant, is offering a sweet initiative for SOS. Guests can bring in a new, unwrapped gift or financial donation for SOS, and receive a free dessert. (Lissa Alexander photo)
Sweet initiative to support Parksville Qualicum Beach residents

‘A lot of our guests are very generous and they want to help out’

Environment Canada has issued a special weather statement forecasting windy weather Sunday and Monday. (News Bulletin file photo)
More windy weather on the way for Vancouver Island

Environment Canada issues special weather statement for Victoria, east coast of Island, north Island

Idyllic winter scenes are part of the atmosphere of the holiday season, and are depicted in many seasonal movies. How much do you know about holiday movies? Put your knowledge to the test. (Pixabay.com)
QUIZ: Test your knowledge of holiday movies and television specials

The festive season is a time for relaxing and enjoying some seasonal favourites

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

A man walks by a COVID-19 test pod at the Vancouver airport in this undated handout photo. A study has launched to investigate the safest and most efficient way to rapidly test for COVID-19 in people taking off from the Vancouver airport. The airport authority says the study that got underway Friday at WestJet’s domestic check-in area is the first of its kind in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO, Vancouver Airport Authority *MANDATORY CREDIT*
COVID-19 rapid test study launches at Vancouver airport for departing passengers

Airport authority says that a positive rapid test result does not constitute a medical diagnosis for COVID-19

A small crash in the water south of Courtenay Saturday afternoon. Two men had to be rescued, but reports indicate there were no serious injuries. Photo by Mike Chouinard
Small plane crash in Comox Valley waters Saturday afternoon

Two rescued from plane that had flipped in water; no serious injuries reported

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A photo from 2017, of Nuchatlaht First Nation members outside court after filing a land title case in B.C. ( Submitted photo/Nuchatlaht First Nation).
Vancouver Island First Nation calls on B.C. to honour UNDRIP in historic title case

Nuchatlaht First Nation says Crown counsel continues to stall the case using the ‘distasteful’ argument that the Nation ‘abandoned’ their land

West Vancouver Island’s Ehattesaht First Nation continues lock down after 9 active cases were reported today after a visitor tested positive last week. (Ehattesaht First Nation/Facebook)
Ehattesaht First Nation’s COVID-19 nightmare: nine active cases, a storm and a power outage

The Vancouver Island First Nation in a lockdown since the first case was reported last week

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

The Ahousaht First Nation confirmed its first case of COVID-19 on Nov. 26, 2020. (Westerly file photo)
Ahousaht First Nation on lockdown over COVID-19

“Emotions are high. The anxiety is high. We want our community to pull through.”

Most Read