Not many medical clinics in the Salmon Arm area maintain waiting lists, those that do have hundreds waiting to sign on with a family doctor. (Contributed)

Salmon Arm family doctor shortage putting health-care needs at risk

City clinics report having long wait lists, not accepting new patients

Health-care needs of Salmon Arm families and seniors are going unmet because of the ongoing doctor shortage experienced throughout B.C.’s Interior.

Some medical practices report having waitlists in the hundreds, while others aren’t accepting new patients due to lack of physicians. This is all while doctors, eager to work in the region, fight a convoluted hiring process.

The Observer reached out on social media to hear people’s experiences about finding a family doctor.

The responses received paint a picture of frustration and increased health risks to those in need of continuous care.

“I’m back to almost where it began.”

Carmyn Block moved to Salmon Arm from Saskatchewan one year ago and began experiencing problems with the health-care system straight away. Block has had ongoing health issues for over 20 years. While she said they are non-life-threatening, they are very much “life-altering.”

Read more: North Okanagan clinics look overseas to find doctors

Read more: Medimap draws award from B.C. doctors

While she was living in Saskatchewan, progress was being made on her treatment, with a biopsy being determined as the next stage in Block’s care. When she moved to B.C. though, the process stopped. Block called several medical clinics in the area asking to be put on with a family doctor. Unsuccessful, she resorted to walk-in clinics where she said one symptom is addressed at a time, but her medical issues involve several interrelated symptoms.

“I’m back to almost where it began,” she said. “To not be able to get the support here, it’s really frustrating.”

Read more: Sicamous welcomes new doctor

Read more: B.C. doctors told not to limit opioids or refuse care of chronic pain patients

Block is now seeking the help of a naturopathic doctor but says the same issues could arise.

“All they’re doing is treating the symptoms, they will not be able to do some of the procedures that potentially need to be done,” she said. “I do need to have that recognized medical personnel but at least I can get some relief from the symptoms whereas right now I can’t.”

“It’s pretty much, if you want to see somebody, you just go to the walk-in clinic.”

Tiffany Loewen and her family moved to Salmon Arm five years ago. After struggling to find a family doctor that could take them on she was eventually successful. Even then, their doctor worked only two days a week and appointments had to be scheduled a week or two in advance. This went on until last summer when their doctor moved away, and their caseload was given to another doctor at the clinic. Now Loewan said she and her family have to book appoints even farther in advance.

Read more: Rural doctors, primary care get big share of B.C. doctor settlement

Read more: Walk-in doctors across B.C. want equal pay

“He’s so busy – it’s three weeks, four weeks advance notice for booking an appointment. It’s pretty much, if you want to see somebody, you just go to the walk in clinic.”

“I think there are days where we avoid going to the doctor because we know that it’s going to be a wait,” Loewen said. “There’s a situation where maybe I should have taken my kids to the doctor and followed up on something.”

When Loewen first moved to the area, she was told the population was mainly retirees. Now she believes this might not be completely true. Having seen the well-rostered youth hockey teams and burgeoning schools, Loewen thinks the need for family doctors is increasingly more important.

“We’re baby boomers and there’s a heck of a lot of us.”

Sally Handley and her 68-year-old husband Dean also managed to find a family doctor, but largely rely on walk-in clinics for their day-to-day health concerns.

Read more: ‘It’s never too early’: B.C. women urged to speak to their doctors about breast cancer

Read more: B.C. VIEWS: Time to listen to the doctors and legalize opioid drugs

After their regular family doctor moved away over the summer, Dean signed on with a family doctor who makes a three-week-on, three week-off-rotation between the Edmonton and Sicamous medical clinic. Although scheduling can be difficult to manage, Sally Handley is grateful they have a physician at all.

“You have to be understanding of the times right now; we’re baby boomers and there’s a heck of a lot of us,” Sally Handley said. “A lot of us, our health conditions are not that great and we are putting a bit of a drag on the medical system right now.

“We’re just fortunate, that’s all I can say.”

“We need two doctors today.”

Read more: Doctors who object to treatment on moral grounds must give referral: court

Read more: Ottawa keeps tabs as doctors sound alarm about cancer drug supply

Gareth Jones, the owner of Bastion Medical Centre, said that while the centre expects to receive another physician in 2020, more are needed immediately.

The Observer reached out to nine medical clinics in and around Salmon Arm, seven responded confirming they were not accepting new patients for family doctors or physicians. Of those seven, two maintain waiting lists. The Maple Tree Medical Clinic in Salmon Arm has a waiting list of approximately 150 people while Bastion Medical Centre’s list has over 1,200 names.

“We need two doctors today,” said Jones, who went on to comment on the state of the doctor hiring in B.C. “This is a very complex, very big issue which has been a failure for as long as I’m aware of and, unfortunately, it’s putting patients at risk everyday.”

Read more: Shuswap doctors face increased demand “to be everything for everybody”

Read more: Doctors wanted in the Shuswap


@CameronJHT
Cameron.thomson@saobserver.net

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19 outbreak declared at Cavalry Chapel Kelowna

Attendees of the Sept. 13 morning church service may have been exposed, Interior Health says

West Kelowna Warriors top Vernon Vipers in return to action

The Warriors earned a 4-1 win to kick off Okanagan Cup tournament

Fuel Good Day pumps up Okanagan-Shuswap organizations

Thousands raised by annual Armstrong Regional Co-op fundraiser Sept. 15

PHOTOS: Ghost sighting in Vernon’s Polson Park

Mom and daughter photoshoot brings joy and laughter to bystanders

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Sept. 27 to Oct. 3

World Farm Animals Day, Drink Beer Day and Virus Appreciation Day are all coming up this week

B.C. records 98 more COVID-19 cases, most in Lower Mainland

One new senior home outbreak, Surrey Memorial outbreak over

Kelowna man injured during arrest sues RCMP

Supreme Court civil claim alleges Dustin Blondin was the victim of an ‘unprovoked attack’

PHOTOS: 2nd calf in a month confirmed among Southern Resident killer whale pod

Center for Whale Research said they will eagerly await to observe the calf to evaluate its health

Parks Canada not responsible for Mount Kobau blockade

Nearby residents have been vocal about plans to turn the area into a national park

97 distressed horses, cats and dogs seized from farm in Princeton

RCMP assisted as BC SPCA executed search warrant

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

$250K reward offered as investigation continues into Sea to Sky Gondola vandalism

Police also asking for specific footage of Sea to Sky highway around time of incident

Trudeau ‘disappointed’ by RCMP treatment of Sikh officers over mask issue

World Sikh Organization of Canada said taking Sikh officers off the front lines constitutes discrimination

Most Read