A doctor sits in a dark room with his head in his hands.

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Ucluelet Doctor Working Side Gigs to Make Ends Meet?

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VIHA saves Ucluelet clinic—for now

Not So Breaking News! The BC housing crisis and the doctor shortage are colliding. But not in a way you’d expect.

A Ucluelet medical clinic was facing closure because… the rent was too high?

The high cost of rent, paired with rising medical supplies and operational costs, were forcing a local Ucluelet medical clinic to shut its doors for good.

Dr. Carrie Marshall, physician and owner of Ucluelet Medical Clinic, had to take on extra work in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside to make ends meet.

And she’s not the only one.

She told CBC that other doctors were picking up shifts with emergency departments and telehealth (BC’s medical phone service) to help keep the clinic open. But the extra work means extra burnout.

Even with all this work, she said the clinic was often breaking even. Some days they even lose money.

So much for going through eight years of medical school to earn a good salary.

Dr. Marshall is glad to announce that the clinic will stay open for now. Island Health is stepping up at the last minute to help foot the bills. That means about 3,000 people in the area will still have healthcare access—temporarily.

“Island Health is essentially taking over the building and the operational costs of that lease,” Marshall told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

Island Health stated they would help the clinic pay costs for at least 18 months. But after that, no one really knows.

They’ve said they’ll be working with Indigenous communities and the Long Beach Chapter of the Rural and Remote Division of Frailly Practice to develop a primary care network for the future.

Ucluelet Mayor Mayco Noel said he was grateful for the short-term solution but stressed that the town still needs a long-term plan.

“The entire community, as well as myself and Council, would like to thank Island Health and the physician group for their hard work in resolving a short-term solution,” he said.

“We look forward to continuing this work to solidify a long-term solution towards a primary care network.”

Ultimately, this medical clinic is not the only one struggling in BC. A similar clinic in Port McNeill nearly closed, but the doctor decided to stay on when VIHA opened a clinic in the same building. A clinic in Cumberland in the Comox Valley closed down last year.

The BC College of Family Physicians (BCCFP) released a report this past month saying almost one million British Columbians don’t have—and can’t get—a family doctor.

David May is a Powell River family doctor and president of the BCCFP. “Family medicine is in a state of crisis,” he said in a statement.

“Family doctors are leaving their practices, and new doctors aren’t entering comprehensive family medicine. Without more support from the health care system, things will only get worse.”

Which brings up an important question: if doctors are so hard to find, why are we letting them struggle with such high costs?

Why are we pushing out the doctors we have?