Hour-long waits at BC walk-in clinics are four times national average: Study

BC’s average wait time increased by 15 minutes, or 35 per cent, in 2021, compared with pre-COVID 2019

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Patients who rely on walk-in medical clinics wait for almost an hour on average to see a doctor, four times longer than waits in at least five other provinces, a new study shows.

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That news didn’t surprise Lauren Kahn as she exited a Vancouver walk-in clinic on Thursday. Her two adult children of her are among the 18 per cent of British Columbians — 900,000 people — who are unable to find a family doctor.

“I’m lucky, I have a doctor,” she said. “But my kids don’t, and they have to wait up to an hour or an hour-and-a-half (to see a doctor at a clinic).”

The study is based on wait times compiled by Medimap, a BC-based app that helps patients choose a walk-in clinic with the shortest wait times. The report found that BC cities placed in all but three spots on a list of top-10 longest wait times across the country.

BC’s average wait time increased by 15 minutes, or 35 per cent, in 2021, compared with pre-COVID 2019, said Medimap CEO Blake Adam.

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“We had expected we would have seen wait times come down during COVID because fewer people were going out and more doctors were seeing patients virtually,” he said.

Ontario’s wait times dropped 11 minutes, to 15 minutes from 26, in 2021 compared with 2019, and Alberta’s average decreased by seven minutes, the study found.

Adam said a long wait for a doctor or even the perception of a long wait could cause patients to avoid seeking medical help because they don’t think they will have the time or patience to see a doctor.

Medimap provides real-time information for 95 per cent of the walk-in clinics in BC, as well as in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia.

The average wait time for those six provinces was 25 minutes, compared with 58 minutes in BC

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The study found the cities with the longest wait times across Canada were Victoria, with 161 minutes, Kelowna (91 minutes), White Rock (83), North Vancouver (74), Vancouver (65), Maple Ridge (61), Burlington, Ont. (51), Port Coquitlam (49), London, Ont. (49), and Grande Prairie, Alta. (Four. Five).

The BC cities with the shortest wait times were Coquitlam (13 minutes), Abbotsford and Delta (both with 14 minutes), Chilliwack (18), and Surrey (40).

Dr. Ramneek Dosanjh, president of Doctors of BC, an organization that represents all BC doctors, including 6,000 family doctors, said it is “quite concerning” that 18 per cent of British Columbians do not have a family doctor.

She said about half the family doctors give “longitudinal care,” meaning they provide continuous care to their patients from birth to senior age.

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She said it is costly for doctors to establish and operate clinics, and they need to be fairly compensated.

What is needed is a “significant fundamental shift” in the way medical care is provided in BC, including more prevention and community care by supporting medical workers such as nurses so fewer people need to be hospitalized, Dosanjh added.

Premier John Horgan said BC’s population grew by 100,000 last year “and that puts a strain not just on our health-care system” but also other government services.

He said the federal government needs to increase funding to bring in more nurse practitioners “so that we can alleviate the doctor shortage.”

I have acknowledged “there are compensation questions” and the province is in negotiations with doctors on fee schedules.

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“In order to address that, we need more cash from Ottawa,” he said. “We need a massive infusion of cash from Ottawa to deliver our public health-care programs” across the spectrum that includes doctors, nurses, care aides, social workers and psychologists.

“The lineups are getting longer because we don’t have the resources to manage it,” he said.

Health Minister Adrian Dix was not available for comment.

[email protected]

— with file from Katie DeRosa

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