Health Minister Terry Lake

THURSDAY SPOTLIGHT: In two-week period, two family physicians no longer doing that work in Parksville Qualicum Beach

Oceanside Health Centre lost its primary care physician July 31; Qualicum Beach doctor closes practice August 15

Another family physician is leaving his practice in Parksville Qualicum Beach.

Dr. Vadula Jayaraman is closing the doors of his Qualicum Beach office on Saturday, “for personal and family reasons,” he said on Tuesday.

Jayaraman has about 1,500 patients and he said they were all notified of the office closure by letter.

“I have been trying desperately since January to find a replacement,” he said.

This latest departure comes on the heels of the news that Dr. Marlene van der Weyde, the family physician at the Oceanside Health Centre’s (OHC) primary care department, had decided to retire from general practice. Her last day was July 31.

Many of the 1,700 people who are clients at the OHC primary care department may have never seen Van der Weyde, instead having their needs attended to by a nurse practitioner or other people who are part of the primary care team. It’s unclear how many of the 1,700 clients claimed Van der Weyde as their family doctor.

This week, OHC medical lead Dr. Ben Williams said the search for Van der Weyde’s replacement continues.

“We are working on it,” said Williams.

Island Health said in June it was working to fill this OHC vacancy as soon as possible.

“We know that recruiting physicians can be challenging, given the current national physician shortage,” said Island Health spokesperson Valerie Wilson.

Premier Christy Clark, in Parksville for caucus meetings in June, said finding physicians “is a problem all over the world.” She also said “I think we will be successful in finding a replacement. Island Health is going to work hard to find a replacement. Frankly, I don’t think it’s going to be as hard here as in other communities to find a replacement. It’s not like living in Parksville is like hardship pay, right? I mean people really love to be here and it’s a rewarding practice to have, so I’m hopeful Island Health will be able to find a replacement.”

In July, Island Health announced the OHC would be open one hour less each day, starting August 1.

Urgent Care will see patients from 7:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m., seven days a week. Since it opened in September of 2013, the centre has been open from 7:30 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.

“Our data shows that the majority of people seek treatment in urgent care between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m., which we know is contributing to longer triage-to-discharge times for those patients who present with less urgent health issues,” Williams said through an Island Health news release in July. “We also know that long waits have resulted in some patients leaving urgent care without being seen by the clinical care team.”

According to Williams, urgent care averaged 50-55 patients a day when it first opened. In June that was up to 70-plus a day and there were days when there were more than 90 patients.

“The increase in volume has been dramatic,” he said.

While family physicians who are closing, retiring from or downsizing their practices are not required to notify Island Health, when they do, Island Health said its Physician Recruitment Office assists the physician in efforts to find a replacement physician for the practice by posting the opportunity on the Island Health and Health Match B.C. websites.

“We feature and promote difficult to fill areas however, an increasing number of family physician vacancies, not only in B.C. but across Canada, creates greater competition for fewer available family practitioners,” an Island Health spokesperson said through an e-mail this week.

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