When Peninsula Medical opened its doors a year ago, the clinic on Bevan Avenue in Sidney was inundated with patients desperate for a doctor – 1,200 of them, to be exact.
This time around, the community health network is taking a different approach and accepting new patients through smaller, scheduled intakes. Since opening last July, 1,700 new patients who did not previously have a doctor have been accepted. The goal by the end of 2017 is to add around 3,000 more patients and the clinic is already halfway there, said Shawna Walker, executive director of Saanich Peninsula Primary Health Care Society, the charitable organization that owns and operates Peninsula Medical.
“When we first opened we saw the whole gamut – healthy people who we told come back when you need to, people floating around without doctors, some of them were on death’s door,” said Andrew Kwasnica, one of the six family physicians at Peninsula Medical. “Some patients hadn’t seen a doctor in so long we diagnosed them with five or six things, it was a big shock to them.”
When the PNR visited Peninsula Medical last week, a familiar face was waiting to have a meet and greet with his new doctor.
“I guess I was one of the fortunate ones, right?” said Ted Daly, a former local mayor and councillor.
Daly, 65, said his family doctor retired about a year ago, giving him no prior notice. According to Daly, he found out from a friend on social media and after he confirmed the news with the clinic, it suggested he use walk-in clinics because he was now without a doctor until a new one could be recruited.
Daly said he’s been asthmatic his whole life and he’s on medication for that, but otherwise he’s in good health.
“I’m really happy that I’ve got a doctor who’s probably going to be around for the next 20 years, it’s really comforting,” Daly said, while also citing the benefits of the in-clinic pharmacist.
Fiona Coleman, a family physician at Peninsula Medical, said studies show people attached – persons with a family doctor – are actually healthier than those unattached.
The physicians are well aware of the doctor shortage on the Peninsula, which is why Peninsula Medical is taking measures to attract new physicians.
“We have an edge for attracting new doctors, it’s about a work-life balance … it gives them time to breathe,” Walker said.
The community health network features an agreeable breakroom for physicians, a collaborative room for doctors to discuss challenging medical issues and two interview rooms for patient counselling services. In recent months a full-time pharmacist has joined the medical team to provide medication reviews and consultations with family physicians for patients on five or more medications. The addition of the pharmacist not only gives patients a deeper understanding of how their drugs work, but saves time for physicians who might otherwise have to explain this.
Currently Peninsula Medical is working to integrate a registered nurse and later a nurse practitioner to work closely with the doctors in patient care.
“Everyone needs a doctor. It’s not just about health concerns, it’s about prevention, too,” Kwasnica said.
At the moment, Peninsula Medical is actively recruiting a seventh doctor to join its team, prompting another patient intake in the future.
Peninsula Medical has established criteria a person must meet to be considered for a physician: new patients must live on the Saanich Peninsula, be unattached and based on a triage system, the ones with the most complex medical needs are seen first.
Walker said people seeking a family doctor should check Peninsula Medical’s website to find out its next patient intake.