07/20/2015 03:13 EDT | Updated 07/20/2016 05:59 EDT

Family doctor shortage in Victoria critical, says physician

A physician on Vancouver Island says the family doctor shortage in Victoria, B.C. has reached a critical level forcing closures at walk-in clinics.

Dr. Bill Cavers, a family physican and the past president of Doctors of B.C., says the lack of doctors in the provincial capital is so bad some walk-in clinics are taking dramatic steps.

"Some of the walk-in clinics are now shutting episodically because they can't find anybody to cover for them," said Cavers.

A search on the College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C. website shows that there are currently only three family doctors in the Greater Victoria Region who are accepting new patients.

B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake says the problem is made worse because of Victoria's demographics.

"In Victoria the population is probably older than in many communities and so as people age, obviously the health needs become higher," said Lake.

Victoria has the second-largest percentage of seniors in B.C. — 19.5 per cent as of 2014, according to Statistics Canada. The average across Canada is 15.7 per cent.

Kelowna has the largest percentage of seniors in the province — 20.3 per cent. Only one family doctor, in West Kelowna, is accepting new patients. 

More recruitment, less administration

Dr. Cavers says the solution is to recruit more family doctors and to simplify medical administration so that they can focus on patient care.

"Make the office and practice efficiency of the doctors we have better, so that the doctors we do have can see more patients without having to stay an extra hour or two every night to do that," said Cavers.

Cavers says after years of working independently, the Ministry of Health, the Doctors of B.C., and the Health Authorities are finally working together to try and solve the shortage.