Patients without doctors crowd Alberni hospital ER

Two new doctors have opened practices in Port Alberni since last year, but 400 people still have their names on a waiting list for family doctors.

Four hundred people have their names on a waiting list for a family doctor at the Alberni Family Medical Clinic despite two new doctors opening practices since the summer of 2010.

This underlines a dire need for more doctors in the Alberni Valley, says Bev Denning, president of the Pacific Rim Health Services Cooperative.

The health co-op asked for and was awarded a $12,000 grant-in-aid by the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District to help them recruit a third doctor for the clinic.

The co-op is in the process of purchasing their building from the City of Port Alberni and have been busy renovating one small project at a time.

They are hoping to attract medically-related businesses to the building; space is available.

“We need tenants, we need doctors. We’re working on both. That’s our focus at the moment,” Denning said.

West Coast General Hospital site director Ellen Brown didn’t give much credit to a survey that was mentioned at the regional district meeting, that 70 per cent of the people visiting the ER could have seen their family doctors.

The survey was done last spring and represented just one week’s worth of people triaged, she said. The survey was done during an examination of ER nursing workload.

“It’s not very scientific, it’s not extrapolated from a larger regular survey,” she said.

“It was just a one-shot deal.”

She did acknowledge that the ER is overtaxed by people with complaints that family doctors could address. An after-hours or walk-in clinic would help ease the rush between 4–9 p.m. that typically happens on weekdays, she said.

“I would like to see numbers shift to people that are truly needing the services or broaden services so we would have an opportunity for people to get into their doctors in a timely way.”