Longer wait times for British Columbia’s walk-in clinics | Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper

Longer wait times for British Columbia’s walk-in clinics

Port Alberni, BC

The Medimap Index is showing that British Columbians face the longest average wait times for walk-in clinics in Canada.

“[P]atients in B.C. had to wait on average 93 minutes to see a physician at a walk-in clinic in 2023, an increase of 14 minutes from 2022,” according to the Medimap Walk-in Clinic Wait Time Index.

The latest measurement places British Columbians waiting 25 minutes longer than the 68-minute average for walk-in clinics in other provinces.

This news comes as no surprise to Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council Vice-President Les Doiron. He hears about the issue from Nuu-chah-nulth people all the time.

“People that can’t get in to a doctor have to go to the clinic and wait forever,” he said.

Port Alberni is in the same boat as most other communities across Canada – there are too many people and too few doctors.

Doiron has been advocating for better health care services for Nuu-chah-nulth-aht and has been working with several groups and organizations to find solutions.

“Port Alberni released a promotional video, an advertisement, encouraging doctors to come to beautiful Port Alberni,” said Doiron.

He said he appears in the video, welcoming viewers to come to the traditional territories of Hupacasath and Tseshaht.

“We sit with the doctors at many tables and they know all about the issues in healthcare…the racism our people face and the opioid crisis,” said Doiron.

He says there are a couple of doctors that he can talk to openly about “how shitty the system is and how we need to change things”.

When it comes to walk-in clinics, Doiron says it’s an open floodgate.

“There’s too many people and not enough places to go,” he said.

Take addictions treatment, for example.

“The day before my nephew died (of an overdose) he asked about getting into treatment,” said Doiron, the anger and frustration still palpable in his voice. “Our relations are dropping dead left, right and center – I’m on a mission to try find help for our people.”

In April 2016 British Columbia’s provincial health officer declared the first-ever public health emergency due to the highly toxic illicit drug supply and its resulting death toll. According to the Ministry of Mental Health and Additions, it was in September 2017 that the provincial government announced a three-year, $322 million investment to save lives.

But in 2024 there are very few detox beds and many barriers to access what is there. Doiron says there are only two facilities for detox on Vancouver Island – one in Nanaimo and one in Victoria.

“There’s nowhere for people to go,” said Doiron. “Unless you win the lottery, you’re not getting in.”

Doiron says the problem boils down to money.

“If there was enough money to do everything…but there’s not,” he said. “We need more mental health dollars, and we need what I call land-based healing,” said Doiron.

He wants to see places in communities where people can be safe and clean while they wait for a treatment bed.

“We need houses of healing because they have no place to go,” said Doiron, who hopes that a new development in Vancouver is successful. “St. Paul’s Hospital has a new Rapid Access Addictions Clinic.”

In the meantime, pressure continues to build on B.C.’s healthcare system. Those without a family physician must rely on walk-in clinics, virtual visits with a doctor or head to the emergency department at the hospital, where wait times are often several hours.

The West Coast Urgent Care Clinic, located at 3949 Maple Way, is Port Alberni’s only walk-in clinic. It is where people go when they can’t access or don’t have a family physician. The clinic provides non-urgent medical care on a walk-in basis for people needing advice, assessment or treatment for minor illnesses or injuries. West Coast Urgent Care Clinic is open from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on weekdays. There is an afternoon break before they reopen at 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.

According to online reviews, people warn that waiting time is long.

“Must ensure early arrival to be seen,” writes one reviewer.

Another complained of waiting more than 90 minutes with no assurance that they will be seen by a doctor.

Medimap publishes wait times at Canada’s walk-in clinics. It is a platform used by Canadian walk-in medical clinics, pharmacists and allied health professionals to publish their wait times online. Canadians using the platform can find up-to-date wait times at clinics near you, and the service can be used to make appointments with healthcare providers like physiotherapists, chiropractors, optometrists, dieticians, mental health providers, naturopaths and dentists.

Share this: