Vancouver Island clinic gets health authority help to stay open despite high operating costs

·2 min read
A clinic on Vancouver Island is getting some help from the local health authority in order to stay open. (iStock - image credit)
A clinic on Vancouver Island is getting some help from the local health authority in order to stay open. (iStock - image credit)

The local health authority is stepping in to help a clinic in a small B.C. community remain open, after it had planned to close over the rising cost of doing business.

Dr. Carrie Marshall, physician and owner of Ucluelet Medical Clinic, which serves the community of about 1,700, says increasing rent, the cost of medical supplies and operational costs associated with running a business have been growing, but the wages for physicians have not — and they're set by the province, not by individual doctors.

In order to keep the clinic open for at least the next 18 months, Island Health says it will help pay the overhead costs of the leased space, including utilities, janitorial services and office and medical supplies.

"I'm thrilled that we've landed in the place that is happening; Island Health is essentially taking over the building and the operational costs of that lease," Marshall told On the Island host Gregor Craigie.

She said it was no longer worth keeping the clinic open because some days they just broke even, and sometimes they lost money by the time she paid the bills and the staff.

Marshall said doctors take on extra work to keep the clinic open; for example, they work in emergency departments, see additional patients in the clinic and pick up shifts with telehealth, the province's phone-in medical service. Marshall also goes to Vancouver to work with patients on the Downtown Eastside to make extra cash.

All that extra work can lead to staff burnout, she said.

Marshall said the clinic would continue to cover payroll, which accounts for about 80 per cent of the clinic's operating costs.

In a news release, Island Health said it would be working with other stakeholders to develop a service plan and establish a primary care network for the region to deal with health care in the long term.

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