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Housing crunch, province-wide doctor shortage collide in Oak Bay

Future family physician questions whether living, opening practice is feasible in Greater Victoria
Alexander Kilpatrick and his family hope to stay in Greater Victoria after being issued notice to move out of their Oak Bay rental home. (Kilpatrick family photo)

With sun streaming into the living room of a modest Oak Bay house, Alexander Kilpatrick presses pause on the legislative debate streaming on his laptop.

A resident doctor, Kilpatrick has a rare day off work, but can’t help but follow the conversation on the dire physician situation in the province.

There is no pause in life though, and in his family’s world, the doctor shortage and housing crunch intersected at an incredibly busy time.

Kilpatrick and wife Brioney must find a new home by June 30, after a surprise eviction notice 2.5 years into what they thought would be a long-term rental. Their children, boys aged two and five, also eagerly await a younger sibling due in September.

READ ALSO: Despite new clinics, 1 in 5 B.C. residents can’t find medical access

Kilpatrick, who grew up in Oak Bay, is in his final year of medical residency and hoped to stay in the home and raise his kids in the community – perhaps opening a family physician practice. With education debt looming in the background, homeownership is a distant – if ever– plan.

“We’re not alone in this. There are people in much harder situations,” Kilpatrick said. He’s no longer a student and has a resident’s salary while Brioney is a teacher in the district.

Yet they’re priced out of most local housing to suit what will be a family of five. It leaves him questioning whether it’s financially feasible to open a business or live here.

READ ALSO: Report on housing costs examines role for municipalities in easing affordability

The doctor shortage is critical, and it shows in the community, Kilpatrick said. It’s not unusual for people to ask him (or even family members) if he’s taking a list of future patients. He echoed the concerns voiced by other doctors, that people without family physicians rely on walk-in clinics putting them at risk. Anecdotally, he knows colleagues in other fields who are seeing patients whose ailments – for example, cancer – could, and should, have been diagnosed sooner, providing better outcomes.

READ ALSO: Chilliwack doctor says government needs to re-think how family physicians are paid

He’s keenly aware the solutions aren’t simple, or the problems would be solved by now, but politicians need to step up, he said. It’s one reason he finds himself following the legislative debates and processes – in hopes they improve the family physician formula.

“Once we can start attracting people to family medicine, how can we make it work sustainably in a community as a small business?” he asked.

On the housing front, the Kilpatrick family will do what it needs, likely finding a less-than-ideal home, or moving away from the community. Kilpatrick knows his family is not unique. “It’s a scenario lots of people find themselves in … We’ve got to find solutions to the two issues because they’re going to start intersecting more and more.”

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Christine van Reeuwyk

About the Author: Christine van Reeuwyk

Longtime journalist with the Greater Victoria news team.
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