A Lower Mainland walk-in clinic has had to limit hours of operation and close early due to a shortage of doctors and increase in patients.
Cottonwood Medical Clinic in Maple Ridge was closed on Monday, after already experiencing long lineups earlier this month, with 10 to 15 people waiting at the door for it to open. Three-hour waits to see a doctor have been common.
“Short staffed for doctors,” said a sign on the door to the clinic Monday.
Another closed sign explained that the clinic is at capacity and not taking any new patients, but that it would re-open Tuesday.
On Tuesday, another sign was posted, that the clinic would be closed from 1-3 p.m., and that only the first 30 patients would see a doctor from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
“No doctor 1-3,” read the sign.
About eight to 10 people were waiting for the clinic to open Tuesday morning. Registrations were being taken to see a doctor at 2:45 p.m.
Kathie Krause, manager, said the clinic closes frequently when over capacity. It was open earlier Monday, but just filled up.
Monday is usually the clinic’s busiest day, Krause said.
“It just got full, really quickly.”
The clinic is normally open from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. It draws patients from Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Surrey and Langley, where clinics have shorter hours.
The Ridge Meadows Care Clinic in Pitt Meadows is also open until 9 p.m.
However, the Ridge Meadows Care Clinic in Maple Ridge closed last June because of a shortage of doctors.
“The growth in this town is ridiculous,” Krause said.
She hasn’t noticed any extra demand because of the flu season, however.
The Cottonwood clinic has only one doctor on at a time, with has limits on the number of patients she or he can see in a day. If doctors see patients in their regular offices, that would reduce the number of people they can see at a walk-in clinic.
Krause said average wait time is now three hours. But at least there are still walk-in clinics, she added.
But regular doctors offices and walk-in clinics throughout Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows need more medical staff.
“We need to figure something out.”
Treena Innes, of the Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice, said previously there’s a shortage of 20 doctors in the area.
In 2013, the provincial government started a three-year program, called A GP for Me, which was designed to have more people get their own family doctor. It also resulted in 416 new physicians coming to the province, and 17 of those were in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows.
But physician recruitment is not keeping up with growth in Maple Ridge, said Innes, nor is it keeping up with replacing family doctors who have recently retired.