Lake Cowichan will not be left without doctors after all.
A new walk-in clinic will be coming to the Cowichan Lake area sometime in September, said Dr. Vincent Rossouw, a family physician from the Beverly medical clinic in Duncan.
Rossouw, and two other physicians will open the walk-in clinic in the same building as the Lake Cowichan Island Pharmacy at 138 South Shore Road (across from the Visitor Centre).
It will start operations on a part-time basis. Coverage will be provided Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and half days on most Saturdays and Sundays.
“We are all full-practice family physicians, we all have family practices, and most of us have hospital privileges,” said Rossouw. “I can see this as a very good solution for this community.”
The need for doctors and health care in the Cowichan Lake area has been on the minds of many since the two current doctors announced their pending departure, scheduled for the end of September.
Though the clinic will start on a first-come-first-served, drop-in basis, there are plans to turn it into a by-appointment clinic, if an interest is shown from the community, and funding is found, Rossouw said.
“Unfortunately, because of the funding issue, one doctor has already said that he is not going to look any further,” Rossouw said.
The doctors are seeking funding from VIHA to compensate them for their travel time, but it is not an easy process. Programs and funding exist through the province, but Rossouw has to convince VIHA to apply.
“It’s a very long process to get accepted as a community of need, and Lake Cowichan doesn’t qualify because it’s less than 100 kilometres away from a bigger centre. There are numerous exceptions to this rule and they would grant the funding, but it has to come through VIHA, and VIHA has to apply to the ministry,” Rossouw said.
“Things that would qualify as an exception: Are there a lot of older people in the community? Are the roads quite hazardous, is it difficult to get there, and is there no other medical help around.”
Though there is no certainty funding will become available, the doctors are going to move forward with the clinic because they believe it’s the best solution to Lake Cowichan’s need for medical care.
“I can see this being an excellent way out, to save a lot of money for the government, but I don’t know their mandates. It’s strange to me that they would start a primary care clinic, if they could actually have doctors going up there at a tenth of the price,” Rossouw said.
Choose Cowichan Lake, the group dedicated to attracting new doctors to Cowichan Lake, was caught somewhat by surprise by the move.
Choose Cowichan Lake’s Bob Day told the Gazette they had yet to talk with Russouw.
Instead, they plan to invite him to the next Choose Cowichan Lake meeting, says Day.