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Medical system's missing a link (Eve Edmonds / Richmond News)

I have to second Zina Pinkhafik when she says it’s “a very sad day,” referring to the closure of her Seafair medical walk-in clinic.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been there for my family’s various calamities. When the dog bites (my daughter’s face and her eyes puff up), when the bee stings (and my son has a nasty allergic reaction), to paraphrase My Favourite Things, Seafair was where we went.

We have a family doctor, but a visit with her next week sometime does me little good when Little Miss has turned into a screaming banshee thanks to an ear infection.

We could race to emergency, but we would wait forever to be seen ­— and rightly so.

Even if my nerves are shot, and we’re rattling everyone else’s in the waiting area, my little banshee is not about to die, so we stay at the back of the line. Besides, a highly-trained, ER doctor, capable of cracking chests and stitching arteries is, shall we say, overkill when all we need are some antibiotics.

The owners of the Seafair clinic say they have to close because of a shortage of doctors. According to the Walk-In Clinics of BC Association, Seafair is one among a number of walk-in clinics throughout the province that have closed recently due to a doctor shortage and what they call an excess of “red tape.”

In particular, the association complains that the province has limited to 50 the number of patients for which a clinic doctor will be fully compensated. Fifty visits in a 7.5 hour day averages out to about nine minutes per visit.

Actually, that doesn’t sound unreasonable to me. What does boggle my mind, however, is the fact we’re missing this link in our health care services. Walk-in clinics are a critical part of the overall system, so how else to deal with the doctor shortage?

The association argues we need to train more and better compensate doctors. Perhaps, but I’d say we also need to think bigger.

I recently received an email from the BC Community Health Centre Association. (It’s election time so they’re looking for funding.)

Community Health Centres (CHC) provide walk-in health services, using a team of nurse practitioners, social workers — as well as doctors. It’s an integrated approach that aims to provide the right person for the job, so you don’t have ER doctors treating ear infections, or even a regular doctor treating addiction when a social worker might do it better for less. What’s important is they’re open when you need them.

There are about 10 CHCs throughout the Lower Mainland, but none in Richmond. I’m not sure why we’ve been left off the list, but with one less walk-in clinic to attend to our dog bites and bee stings, perhaps we should book an appointment to at least start the conversation.

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