Medi-Kel walk-in clinic will be opening its new location Nov. 2 at 1715 Ellis Street. Doctor shortages have been an ongoing issue in B.C. - Credit: Contributed

Central Okanagan Medical clinics shuffle

Doctors moving from Lake Country will practice at a new clinic at Hillside Plaza in Kelowna

As one medical clinic closes in Kelowna, another opens.

Lakeland Medical Clinic is closing on Harvey and Ellis and walk-in clinic Medi-Kel, currently located in Superstore is moving to that location, according to Mike McLoughlin, of the Walk-In Clinics of BC Association and the office manager of Medi-Kel.

Another larger physician group will take over the Superstore location with longer hours after closing its Lakeshore Medical location.

Two doctors are moving from Turtle Bay Medical in Lake Country to Hillside Medical Clinic at Hillside Plaza, which has the same owner.

“It’s great that they’re opening another clinic… considering we’re losing two walk-in clinics in the next six weeks,” said McLoughlin.

The Okanagan is notorious for its doctor shortages which is also tied to increasing overhead costs for businesses.

“There’s a general consensus that physicians are some of the highest paid people in the country,” said McLoughlin who stated specialists such as surgeons are paid well, but family doctors are paid through office visits and prices haven’t significantly changed in 10 years.

To recruit doctors, businesses also have to offer them a good deal, he said. Typically the ratio of pay is $65 for a doctor and $35 for the clinic. But with the shortages in B.C., businesses like Turtle Bay Medical and Medi-Kel offer a $75 to $25 ratio. Stand-alone companies may not be able to afford the ratio or they may discontinue walk-ins, said McLoughlin.

The landscape of doctor offices is changing to compensate, as clinics are moving into retail locations to alleviate costs and pay doctors better, he said. With his own clinic, “moving into a smaller retail space beside a pharmacy gives us the flexibility we need to pay better and hopefully to recruit more doctors.”

Turtle Bay Medical in Lake Country opened in April and has six family doctors and a walk-in clinic. Doctors there are accepting patients from the Okanagan such as Vernon, which recently lost a walk-in clinic, and Kelowna.

“We see a lot of clinics in Kelowna are shutting down and we see opportunity there and we obviously have been successful in recruiting positions so we want to provide that service anywhere we can in the Okanagan,” said Turtle Bay Medical general manager Kiffer Walker.

Two doctors in Lake Country are building their clientele before moving to the Kelowna location on Summit Drive.

According to Walker, the Lake Country centre can accept roughly 10,000 to 12,000 patients and once opened and new doctors have been hired, the Kelowna clinic will handle the same amount.

“We’re still getting a lot of patient applications,” he said. New doctors will also replace the ones leaving Lake Country.

Rutland will be the odd district out, said McLoughlin, as it lost a clinic in 2016 which hasn’t been replaced.

Hillside Medical will open in March, 2018 and Medi-Kel’s new location, at 1715 Ellis Street, will open Nov. 2.

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