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Langley, Coquitlam medical clinics closing, leaving patients worried about finding new doctors – BC

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The Lower Mainland is losing two medical clinics this year, leaving thousands of patients without a family doctor in a province grappling with a shortage of them.

According to the Gain Medical Centre’s website, all five doctors at the Coquitlam clinic are slated to leave. One is moving to a clinic in Port Coquitlam, while the remainder are retiring on Aug. 31.

The Brookswood Family Practice in Langley, which had three family physicians, is also slated to shut down on Dec. 1. A letter to a patient obtained by Global News provided no reason for the end of the signing physician’s practice.

Global News reached out to both clinics, but was told no doctors were available to comment.

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The news worried patients outside both clinics.

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Lyle Balderson said he has been a patient of the Brookswood Family Practice for over a decade.

“We just got the news about a week-and-a-half ago,” he said. “It leaves us hanging in the air without a doctor at 80 years old. It’s devastating. I’m diabetic, I have epilepsy, I need doctor care. Where do we go from here?”

“I’m getting a little teary just thinking about it,” added another patient, Judy Gasparetto.

“I don’t understand. It’s happening all over, that’s the sad part. We need our doctors, we need our nurses and doctors. I do definitely need a doctor. I have a crippling illness and it’s got to be looked after constantly.”

Both Balderson and Gasparetto said they had received some information from their doctors about resources for finding a new physician or suggestions for other clinics that might be taking new patients, but had not secured a new doctor yet.

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Outside the Gain Medical Centre, Kim Warwick said she’s been searching for a new physician for her own mother to no avail. She said she brought her mother to one of her final appointments at the clinic on Tuesday to “just sort of get one last final bill of health.”

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“I don’t know what I’m going to do. I hope the doctor will give her a year of prescriptions just to at least buy me some time to find a doctor,” Warwick, a health-care worker, said.

“What ends up happening is that if I do need someone to care for my mom, it’s going to end up being through the emergency department, which doesn’t do the health-care system any good.”

Even if her mother received good care at an emergency department, the physicians wouldn’t be able to carry on that “continuum of care” outside the building, which could create its own host of health-care related challenges, she added.

Information on how to find another doctor was provided on the Gain Medical Centre’s website.

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The closures come as a shortage of resources and health-care staff in the Lower Mainland is thrust into the spotlight by doctors at the Surrey Memorial Hospital.

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Earlier this month, Health Minister Adrian Dix promised an expansion to the facility after dozens of physicians and health-care professionals across multiple disciplines penned letters warning of a crisis that has already been compromised, and would continue to compromise, patient care.

In response to concerns about clinic closures on Tuesday, Dix referenced the province’s new payment structure for family physicians, which took effect in February. Rather than the historic fee-for-service model, it allows doctors to opt-in to a billing system that accounts for the amount of time spent with a patient, the number of patients seen in a day, and the total number of patients supported by a doctor’s practice.

Dix said about 65 per cent of current longitudinal family practice doctors have opted in and 586 doctors who did not have those practices in the last fiscal year have joined as well. Another 149 doctors who had been practicing elsewhere in the health-care system have also returned to family medicine.

“We’re building an attachment model where people will be able to engage through HealthLinkBC and request a family doctor,” he added, promising news on that development soon.

“As well, all those family doctors who are joining the new payment model are providing their patient rosters. This is going to create opportunities, certainly over the next number of years, for people to get access to family doctors.”

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The new fee structure is an effort to both recruit and retain physicians.

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