The Summerland After Hours Clinic will close its doors effective Sept. 1.
In the past, physicians from the different clinics in Summerland had collaborated to provide after-hours primary care service since the Summerland hospital closed in 2001.
“As physicians who live and work in Summerland, we take great pride in trying to meet all of the primary care needs of our community,” said Dr. Danielle Weisgarber, Rosedale Clinic lead.
“For many years we’ve provided medical care to the whole Summerland community with scheduled clinics and the after-hours clinics. This was unique to our community but is no longer sustainable with the existing workforce.”
The Kelly Avenue clinic and Rosedale Medical clinics will be providing additional urgent same-day appointments for their patients. However, the clinics have had increasing difficulty staffing the after-hours clinics while also providing care for their own patients.
“We are facing an ongoing physician shortage, and something had to give,” Weisgarber said. “While we are all saddened by this loss, our top priority needs to be to attach as many patients as possible to our clinic practices for ongoing, continuous care. We know that this is important to residents in our community. We understand that the closure of the after-hours clinic will impact the members of the community who do not have a family physician, particularly those with limited transport. This is why we’ve been heavily involved in the ongoing process of planning expansion of primary care services in Summerland and Penticton.”
Physician shortages are affecting clinics and communities across Canada. To support physician recruitment efforts, Summerland physicians have been actively working with the municipality of Summerland, South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice and Interior Health towards a larger Summerland Primary Care Centre.
A larger clinic is expected to attract physicians who are looking to work in bigger team-based practices, with the aim of attaching everyone in Summerland to their own family physician.
Some of the planning around the new aquatic facility to replace the current Summerland Aquatic Centre has included concepts that would see a health centre built into the facility.
Although the closure may cause some short-term concerns, the goal is to improve the community’s access to doctors over the long-term.
“We have to look at how we make working life in the Summerland clinics as attractive as possible to potential recruits, which sometimes requires restructuring how we deliver care to the community,” Weisgarber said.
Earlier this year, the clinic reduced its operating hours. Initially, the facility had offered service seven days a week, but in recent years there have been staffing problems. Weisgarber said few communities of the same size as Summerland provide walk-in clinic service.
Patients without a family doctor are encouraged to contact one of Penticton’s urgent care and walk-in centres. For emergency health concerns, please visit the Penticton Regional Hospital Emergency Department.
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