Home Health Medical & Treatment Doctor shortage highlighted by clinic closure in View Royal

Doctor shortage highlighted by clinic closure in View Royal

"Just terrible news." ~ View Royal Mayor David Screech | "This news is devastating." ~ Mitzi Dean, MLA (Esquimalt-Metchosin)

Tuesday January 18, 2022 | VIEW ROYAL, BC

by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends


The loss of two family doctors at the Eagle Creek Medical Clinic in View Royal is leading to closure of the clinic, eliciting a lot of response from the public and doctors alike. Dr. George Zabakolas and Dr. Chelsie Velikovsky had about 1,500 patients each.

The doctors advised patients that they would not book new appointments at the clinic after April 15, the clinic says their walk-in services will close at that time too. The doctors told one media outlet that they will try to place their “high needs patients” with other physicians before their departure.

doctors, view royal
Dr. George Zabakolas and Dr. Chelsie Velikovsky are closing their practice at Eagle Creek Medical Clinic in View Royal, BC.

The married couple did their medical training in the United States and have dual certification. Zabakolas practiced private medicine in the U.S. and Velikovsky completed her residency. They moved to Victoria three years ago to open their practice, and may offer consultation services for U.S. patients remotely, Zabakolas said in a TV interview.

Eagle Creek Medical tried for full-range:

Eagle Creek Medical Clinic on their website has described themselves as a full-service medical clinic, located at #120-27 Helmcken Road in View Royal and that are “now proudly part of the Western Communities Primary Care Network (PCN)”. They’ve been offering walk-in and telehealth services to deal with needs in a timely manner, and saying their high complexity care team offers team-based and integrative primary care to over 400 patients in the community.

Dr. Matthew Ward, medical director of the Eagle Creek Medical Clinic, said the cost of overhead for doctors to run a practice is costly, as well as the overall cost of living and working in Victoria.

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Shortage of doctors in Greater Victoria:

Reaction to the loss of this clinic and another one in the region, has highlighted problems with how primary health care is delivered in BC. Doctors who run their clinics or offices as a business are faced with overhead costs that erode their income which is generally received on a fee-per-patient-visit basis.

As well, many doctors who’ve run their own practices for an entire career have been retiring over the past few years.

david screech, mayor, view royal
Mayor David Screech at the January 18, 2022 Town of View Royal Council Meeting, about upcoming closure of Eagle Ridge Medical Clinic: “For our community this is just terrible news”.

As a result, many residents of the Greater Victoria area don’t have access to a family doctor. As of 2018, over 30,000 people in the west shore area (Langford, Colwood, View Royal, Sooke) didn’t have a primary care physician; over 100,000 are reportedly without a family doctor in the Greater Victoria area now (about 30% of the population).

That’s already a significant problem for helping to maintain health of the population, with the overload of the health-care system due to COVID loaded on top of that. This leaves the health of the general population positioned to erode over time (which will increase costs for chronic and acute care later on, especially as the population ages).

View Royal Mayor weighs in:

Tonight at the Town of View Royal January 18 council meeting, Mayor David Screech said the loss of two GP’s at Eagle Creek Walk-In clinic “for our community is just terrible news”.

“A lot of View Royal residents use that clinic. All round, it’s a bad situation for View Royal and the greater area,” said Screech at the beginning of the meeting.

MLA Mitzi Dean weighs in:

MLA for the area, Mitzi Dean, MLA (Esquimalt-Metchosin) has been a high-profile advocate for delivery of health-care in the area. Today she said: “I have been hearing from many in our community about the loss of two doctors and the closing of the walk-in clinic at Eagle Creek Clinic in View Royal.”

“I know that for those impacted, or who are currently searching for a family doctor, this news is devastating,” said Mitzi Dean. Since first being elected in 2017 she has prioritized bringing new primary care health services to the community area that she serves (and before that she worked for 10 years in a social services environment in the west shore that addressed similar issues).

mitzi dean, ron mattson
Announcing the new Westshore Community Health Centre in Colwood on November 12, 2021 (from left): Mitzi Dean, Minister of Children and Family Development; Shawna Adams, Chair, Pacific Family Centre Services Association; Dr Randal Mason, co-chair, South Island Division of Family Practice; and Ron Mattson, vice-chair, Island Health Board of Directors. [Island Social Trends photo – Mary P Brooke]
Mitzi Dean

“We have made progress and opened Urgent and Primary Care Centres in Esquimalt (December 6, 2021) and the Westshore (October 2018) and soon a new Westshore Community Health Centre will open in Colwood,” said Dean today. Dean hosted the official announcement of the Westshore Community Health Centre in Colwood back on November 12, 2021.

Dean says that in the coming days she will be meeting with local residents who have been affected. “I will be reaffirming to them my commitment to ensuring primary care health services are available to everyone in our community,” said Dean.

Long-term strategy:

BC Health has been opening Urgent and Primary Care Centres for the past few years. The ‘transformational’ primary care strategy will provide sustainable solutions, says BC Health.

BC Health aims to establish 85 new primary care networks, 40 urgent and primary care centres, several community health centres, and up to 15 First Nations primary care centres in the coming years.

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===== RELATED:

Esquimalt UPCC opens at permanent new location (December 6, 2021)

New Westshore Community Health Centre will ‘make a dent’ serving 6,700 patients (November 12, 2021)

Two new doctors and more office space for existing Sooke medical clinic (May 5, 2019)

New urgent primary care health centre in Langford to open November 5 (October 26, 2018)