While things may not be as bad as they were in 2012, as Mayor Ross Forrest asserts, it’s still not a good thing that three doctors are leaving the community, all this year.
It’s true that Cowichan Lake is not being left totally without a doctor, as was the case when the final doctor left Lake Cowichan five years ago.
Since then, more medical professionals have been attracted to, and set up in the community. Not all doctors, of course, but the excellent health care team has sure taken some of the pressure off, dealing with some health issues that can be handled outside of a traditional relationship with your family doctor. But people still do need a family doctor, and taking away three from the community within months will hurt.
Already patients of the three physicians are scrambling to try to sign up with another family doctor, a process that is often not that easy to accomplish.
Family doctors are busy, and can only take on so many patients. And it’s important to find one that you can establish a good rapport with — not everyone will share the same views on medications and alternative therapies, for example. It’s important that people get a doctor they feel will take care of their health in a manner they are comfortable with.
This will no doubt leave some Cowichan Lake residents on waiting lists.
There’s no definitive explanation as to why the three are all leaving, almost at once. But that’s not as important as what happens next.
There are many rural communities that are facing similar problems with getting and keeping family physicians.
That means competition for doctors willing to settle in small communities is fierce.
Lake Cowichan has a lot to recommend it, in those terms. It’s a small community, yes, but it’s not really isolated, as some can be.
Duncan is an easy drive down the highway, and Nanaimo and Victoria are an easy drive beyond that for a taste of the city if someone is so inclined.
And then there are the good things about the Cowichan Lake area. There are beautiful, relatively affordable homes, some of them waterfront. There’s a warm and welcoming community. The lake and surrounding countryside offer some of the best recreational activities around if you like the outdoors.
There are schools for kids from kindergarten to Grade 12.
But there still needs to be some coordinated effort to replace the three doctors that are leaving. We can’t just leave it to chance.