British Columbia

B.C. has the longest wait times for walk-in clinics compared to other provinces, new data finds

B.C. residents wait an average of 58 minutes to see a doctor at a walk-in clinic, more than double the national average, according to Medimap.

Wait times up by about 35 per cent from 2019 to 2021, tech company Medimap says

Wait-times for walk-in clinics in B.C. are more than double the national average, according to Medimap. (Kamon_Wongnon/Shutterstock)

This story is part of Situation Critical, a series from CBC British Columbia reporting on the barriers people in this province face in accessing timely and appropriate health care.

A stylized phrase reading 'SITUATION CRITICAL', made to read like a red heartbeat monitor.

Residents of British Columbia wait an average of 58 minutes to see a doctor at a walk-in clinic, according to a Canadian tech company that publishes wait times for walk-in clinics across the country.

Medimap says that's the longest of any province, and more than double the national average of 25 minutes.

Six of the top 10 cities with the longest average wait times in Canada were in B.C. last year, with Victoria having the longest average wait time at more than two-and-a-half hours, the company said.

Founder and CEO Blake Adam said they anticipated finding a drop in wait times from 2019 to 2021 as fewer people visited clinics during the pandemic and virtual calls became more common. 

"That is what we saw in every other province, we saw wait times drop across the board," he said. "In B.C. that wasn't the case. We saw wait times go up from 2019 to 2021 by about 35 per cent." 

While the data does not include all provinces, and human error by clinic staff is possible when it comes to inputting wait times, the company says the numbers back what British Columbians have been voicing.

Dr. Renee Fernandez, executive director of B.C. Family Doctors, says about a million British Columbians are without a family doctor, resulting in delayed screening, visits and in many cases, long waits.

Among the changes needed, she says, is a review of provincial fees paid to family doctors, which have not kept pace with the operating costs.

"If the pandemic has taught most of us anything it's that we can only rely on altruism to provide health care to a certain degree," Fernandez said.

"At some point the people working in the system begin to crumble and fail. Unfortunately, we're at that point in family medicine and health care at large."

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix said there has yet to be a proper assessment of the numbers released by Medimap, a company that he said is "interested in promoting its product."

He pointed to the government's ongoing efforts to build a strong health-care system, including the opening of 28 urgent and primary care centres with more than a million patient visits.

"It's hard to imagine how we could have responded to the pandemic in the way we did without having opened those urgent and primary care centres," he said.

Fernandez says without urgent action she fears the number of doctors will continue to drop and the wait times will continue to rise.

"The great resignation that we've seen in other professions, well, it's here now," she said.

With files from Isabelle Raghem and The Canadian Press

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