As he sat on a chair rubbing his knees after coming inside from the cold, a Williams Lake senior said he’s hoping to get a family doctor sooner than later.
After being a patient at the Atwood Clinic in Williams Lake for more than 30 years, Lorne Lake, 69, received a letter in July notifying him that he no longer had a doctor effective Oct. 20, 2020.
His doctor left the clinic to return to Vancouver in November of 2019 and the clinic has been unable to find a replacement.
“I don’t blame the clinic for what’s happened,” Lake said. “I really think it is up to our city, the provincial and federal government to find ways to attract doctors to smaller cities.”
Lake will probably require knee surgery at some point.
He was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in both knees about 10 years ago.
At the time his family doctor in the Atwood Clinic connected him with an orthopedic surgeon in Kamloops.
“I’d go for cortisone shots routinely and my orthopedic surgeon told me I should wait until I was at least 65 before I had surgery.”
Six months after he turned 65 he contacted his surgeon to learn that he had left Kamloops and moved to Edmonton, Alta.
His family doctor found him a new surgeon in Prince George, but Lake said dealing with a different health authority was difficult.
“I gave up and in the last year have been trying to get back on a list for surgery, but I cannot get a referral without a family doctor.”
On Monday, Oct. 26, a virtual clinic began offering appointments for people in the Williams Lake area to help address the doctor shortage and Lake plans to book in an appointment for the end of November so he can have his prescriptions renewed.
He’s also signed up for the wait list to be assigned a doctor once one becomes available.
Joanne Meyrick, operations lead for the Central Interior Rural Division of Family Practice confirmed Wednesday, so far over 500 people have signed up for the waitlist and 19 appointments have been booked for the virual clinic.
She said the online booking system should be live by Thursday, Oct. 29.
“We anticipate that number will grow and would encourage people to call and book,” Meyrick said.
Lake said he is wondering how many seniors are in the same boat as he is.
“Even my landlord who is in his 30s hasn’t had a doctor for over five years,” Lake said.
The letter from the Atwood Medical Clinic advised patients that the Exeter Medical Clinic and the Village Medical Clinic in 100 Mile House are taking patients.
Lake doesn’t own a vehicle and said that he would have to rely on a friend to drive him there and in the winter that might be more difficult.
On Monday, Oct. 26, the Exeter Medical Clinic confirmed it is not taking new patients at this time but it does have a walk-in clinic by appointment only. Village Medical Clinic still has a walk-in doctor as well, but people need to call ahead.
Lake’s other option, the letter stated, was to go the emergency department at Cariboo Memorial Hospital, however, he is hesitant to go there if it is not an emergency, he said.
“I have good days and bad days with my knees — I know there are people worse off than me though.”