Patients line up outside a walk-in clinic in Saanich Plaza just before it opens at 9 a.m. (Black Press Media file photo)

Patients line up outside a walk-in clinic in Saanich Plaza just before it opens at 9 a.m. (Black Press Media file photo)

POLL: Do you have a family doctor?

It’s a health care crisis that no community is immune to. Medical clinics have closed across Greater Victoria while the ranks of those without a family doctor continue to swell.

Saanich, the West Shore, James Bay have all seen clinics close their doors in recent months as the number of area residents without a family doctor reaches 100,000 and climbing.

B.C. Premier John Horgan says B.C.’s health care system is in crisis as the province’s efforts to recruit doctors and nurses to staff a network of urgent and primary care centres have not kept up with demand for services.

Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix struggled to defend the situation in the B.C. legislature this week, as opposition critics relayed horror stories from constituents unable to get into walk-in clinics and urgent care centres, even for simple things like renewing a prescription.

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Dix said the clinics and a rapid increase in phone and other remote services have increased the number of fee-for-service doctor visits, which pay the doctor about $30 per visit.

“We’re transforming the system and moving – yes, slowly – away from the fee-for-service model,” Dix told the legislature.

It can’t happen fast enough for at least one B.C. doctor.

Chilliwack’s Darren Joneson said there are more than 6,000 family doctors in B.C. but only half have community practices that accept patients. He believes the main issue is the province’s fee-for-service model, pointing to a few doctors who will see 50 patients in three hours.

“I’m not exaggerating that number, and that works out to about three minutes per patient,” he said. “Those doctors make more money than doctors who see 25 to 30 patients in a day, and are trying to provide the best care they can with the time they’re given.”

Those without family doctors who rely on walk-in clinics (Joneson calls it episodic care) are at risk of having things missed. That can be catastrophic for their health, and from a more callous dollars-and-cents point of view, it’s costlier for the health-care system.

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