A Vancouver Island health care centre is reducing its operating hours because of staffing considerations.
Island Health announced Saturday that, effective immediately, the Chemainus Health Care Centre would be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. rather than from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
“This adjustment will ensure physicians and staff can provide access to safe and sustainable care during peak hours,” the health authority said in a statement.
Demand during the cut service hours was low, according to Island Health, which said the facility served one patient per day, on average, during its open hours before 8 a.m. and after 8 p.m.
The health authority advised people in need of urgent care before 8 a.m. or after 8 p.m. to visit the Ladysmith Community Health Care Centre – which is open from 7:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. – or the Cowichan District Hospital emergency department, which is open 24 hours a day.
While Island Health did not directly attribute the change in hours to a shortage of staff, it concluded its statement by saying it “continues to recruit to support a sustainable staffing model for the Chemainus Health Care Centre.”
The change in hours comes against a backdrop of significant doctor shortages on Vancouver Island and across B.C.
On Thursday, hundreds of doctors and patients rallied at the provincial legislature to demand action from the provincial government to improve access to family doctors.
One in five people in the province do not have a family doctor and those who do typically wait several weeks for the next available appointment.
Urgent and primary care centres around the province are intended to help improve access to primary care for those without family doctors, but Island Health has admitted in the past that staffing the facilities has been a “challenge.”
A recent study showed that Victoria had the longest wait times at walk-in clinics in all of Canada, and seven of the top 10 cities for longest wait-times were in B.C.
Premier John Horgan has acknowledged the problems, blaming the situation – in part – on a lack of federal funding and continued migration into B.C. from other provinces.
“The number of British Columbians without access to an in-person family physician is a real problem,” the premier said in a statement this week, after meeting with protesting doctors.
“Going forward, the provincial government has committed to working closely with Doctors of B.C. on solutions, including a clear process with firm timelines in order to make tangible progress on this complex problem,” he said.