Access to doctors to get worse before it gets better
Kelowna walk-in medical clinics closing, moving; new one opening next March
Kelowna will be down one walk-in medical clinic until the new year as clinics in the city shuffle locations.
The Medi-Kel walk-in clinic, currently located inside Superstore, is moving this week into the former Lakeland Medical Clinic, located at the corner of Ellis Street and Harvey Avenue.
“We’re downsizing,” said Medi-Kel manager Mike McLoughlin. “We don’t have the physician complement to staff this size of a clinic properly.”
Ideally, the clinic would be open evenings and weekends, but there are currently only four part-time physicians working Monday to Friday between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m., he said.
The Superstore clinic sees about 50 to 60 patients a day between the two part-time doctors at work during regular hours.
The new, smaller location on Ellis Street will allow McLoughlin to recruit more doctors because of lower costs, he said.
“We are going to be able to pay the doctors better,” he said. “This is one of the big reasons we’re moving is that we’re getting a better deal on the rent at the new location. We’re lowering our overhead, so we can pay our doctors better.”
There is currently a significant shortage of family doctors in Kelowna, one of the reasons being they are not paid as well as in other provinces, said McLoughlin.
“We’ve lost a number of doctors to Alberta and Saskatchewan because they pay the doctors better there,” he said.
McLoughlin has also lost several doctors to Kelowna General Hospital, where family doctors are being recruited to work as hospitalists.
“The hospitalist doctor earns just as much as a regular family doctor, but they don’t have to pay overhead,” he said, adding overhead costs are around 30 per cent.
When it opens on Thursday, the new Medi-Kel clinic will be open Monday to Friday during the day, but McLoughlin hopes to recruit three full-time doctors to add to the team and allow for expanded hours.
“We’ve got doctors retiring and we’ve got doctors who are getting close to retirement, so we do need a significant push on more family doctors in Kelowna,” he said.
The clinic inside Superstore will remain empty until January, when the Lakeshore Medical Centre closes and moves into that location.
A new walk-in clinic in the Glenmore area is also scheduled to open in March, said McLoughlin.
“So, all in all, we will come out the same,” he said.
Mike McLoughlin, manager of the Medi-Kel Family Practice and Walk In Clinics, sits in one of the clinic’s examination rooms at 1715 Ellis St., where it is moving from its current location inside Superstore.