Concerns over doctor shortage and health support

Doctors at Brookside Medical Clinic declined to answer questions this week about the need for a new physician in the town

Doctors at Brookside Medical Clinic declined to answer questions this week about the need for a new physician in the town, but locals have been voicing their concerns to the Lake Cowichan Gazette via Facebook.

The clinic states that they are not aware of any doctors who have responded to the ad placed with the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA), however at least one person has told the Lake Cowichan Gazette that they were told directly by one of the physicians that there is at least one physician interested in the position.

The clinic and VIHA have been aware of the doctor shortage for some time. According to Brenda Warren, manager for physician recruitment for VIHA, there are strategies in place to help attract physicians to rural areas.

But it seems that at least some local residents are not only concerned with the need for a new doctor in the town. Since posting questions about this issue on the Lake Cowichan Gazette Facebook page, we have received comments that reflect frustration about denied service, the need for a midwifery or prenatal satellite clinic, and a seemingly indifferent attitude from the clinic when trying to find medical care upon the retirement of one of the clinic’s doctors.

Cheryl Cowperthwaite says, “I am still unable to get any kind of medical attention here at the lake. A doctor would be great. It would save me time driving to Duncan or Victoria. I moved here with my children almost two years ago and am still driving to Victoria for care for them.”

Airiane Star says, “We once tried to have a doctor in town look at our daughter’s head after she had fallen on concrete. They refused because we were new in town and not current patients. We went to (the) emergency (room) in Duncan. The doctor on (call) gave us the name of a physician in Duncan taking patients and we have been traveling to Duncan to see her ever since. I think a walk in clinic and a satellite midwifery/prenatal clinic would be fantastic.”

Lillian Laird says that she has not been able to see a doctor here in town since the sudden retirement of one of the clinic’s doctors. “The clinic didn’t even bother to give us so much as a phone call. They offered no assistance towards finding a new care provider, and told us it wasn’t their problem. I’m not sure I’d go back even if they did find a new doctor to fill the gap.”

Laird is still without a doctor and runs a small business in town. She says she does not have the time to travel to Victoria or Nanaimo for ongoing treatment on top of the costs involved and the wait times.

“I’m very disappointed in how the clinic handled things,” she says. “Some of us have serious ongoing medical concerns, and are finding it extremely difficult to find a new care provider because those providers do not want to take on serious issues or continue the course of treatment set up by another doctor. It’s left us tired, frustrated, (and) worried about how to refill prescriptions—these are not the types of prescriptions that emergency or walk-in clinics will handle.”

Laird goes on to say that she does wish her previous doctor all the best, “but the complete and utter lack of a support structure to find new care has been very disheartening.”

The Lake Cowichan Gazette would like to give Brookside Medical Clinic doctors a chance to voice their concerns and any advice they may have to offer residents like Cowperthwaite, Star, and Laird. We would also like to give them a chance to speak to the doctor shortage and the efforts they have made to fill the physician gap.

And as always, we would like to hear from you, our readers. Post to our Facebook page, send an email to the editor at, or give us a call at 250-749-4383.