Physician shortage forces closure of Summerland after-hours clinic | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Physician shortage forces closure of Summerland after-hours clinic

The Rosedale Medical After Hours Clinic announced it will be permanently closed as of Sept. 1
August 12, 2021 - 1:49 PM

Summerland residents are losing their after-hours healthcare clinic at the end of the month.

“The Summerland After Hours Clinic, located at Rosedale Medical, will be permanently closing effective Sept. 1,” reads a press release from the clinic.

Lead doctor Danielle Weisgarber said the closure is a result of physician shortages in Summerland – a challenge which is common throughout Canada.

“Put simply, we need more doctors,” Dr. Weisgarber said. “We have to look at how we make working life in the Summerland clinics as attractive as possible to potential recruits, which sometimes requires restructuring how we deliver care to the community. This may seem like a backwards step in the short term, but the ultimate goal is to improve access to doctors for everyone”.

The press release also mentions efforts being made by local physicians to find a long-term solution.

Those doctors are working with municipal and regional politicians to build a comprehensive Summerland Primary Care Centre, which will hopefully draw more physicians into Summerland, as larger team-based practices offer more attractive workplaces for doctors.

The goal is for every resident of Summerland to have their own family doctor.

But in the meantime, patients from Summerland without a family doctor will have to travel to Penticton for after-hours healthcare. 

“This really is a loss for Summerland,” Mayor Toni Boot said.

Finding doctors to staff smaller clinics is becoming more challenging, she said.

In the past, it was more common for two or three doctors to operate a clinic together out of a small office, but that model of service limits the amount of specialists each doctor can refer their patients to, and also requires physicians to spend some of their energy running the business instead of helping patients.

“That method of work is not solely focused on giving healthcare,” Boot said. “It requires the doctors to also be entrepreneurs and business owners and not only is that expensive but it takes away from their ability to offer the care that they want to offer.”

Working out of a large healthcare facility is more cost effective, offers physicians for a better work-life balance and won’t overtax the them as much, she said.

“It gives doctors the opportunity to refer their patients to experts who are just down the hall," Boot said.

She knows of at least one doctor Summerland lost due to burnout.

“He retired early because he just couldn’t handle the extra stress and workload that is in an area where there is a shortage of colleagues to help lessen the burden,” she said.

READ MORE: Regional board agrees to fund Penticton urgent primary care centre

Whether or not the Summerland Primary Care Centre actually gets built will come down to a referendum in the next municipal election in the fall of 2022 as the District will have to borrow money to make it happen.

A feasibility study is underway to determine the best solutions. Proposals could suggest combining a new primary care facility with a new aquatic and fitness centre — as the existing one is in need of an upgrade — or it could be stand-alone project.

“We’re still not sure if the two will even happen, and if they’ll be co-located or in two separate areas in Summerland,” Boot said.

Asked if the closure of the Summerland After Hours Clinic will make voters more likely to support the referendum, she said that’s a difficult question to answer.

“I don’t know if this will make people more inclined to vote in favour at the referendum.”

To contact a reporter for this story, email Dan Walton or call 250-488-3065 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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