Dwindling doctor count has Lake Cowichan calling 911

Brookside Medical Clinic in Lake Cowichan recently lost one of its three doctors and another is expected to depart next year. - Gazette
Brookside Medical Clinic in Lake Cowichan recently lost one of its three doctors and another is expected to depart next year.
— image credit: Gazette

Hiring five more doctors is patient Laurie Johnson’s prescription for curing Lake Cowichan’s physician shortage.


“It’s a crisis,” she said. “I’m scared if we loose one more doctor, we will start to loose our community.”


Her fears will be aired during Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. public meeting in the lake’s Centennial Hall where agents with the Vancouver Island Health Authority have been invited.


While Johnson said the lake needs two or three more docs immediately — to replace one that’s already left, and another leaving in the fall — her community ideally needs some six physicians.


“There were three doctors, but we’re down to two after Dr. David Froese left in the spring,” said Johnson, who must now take a day off to see her new doctor in Duncan.


“That left us with doctors Peter Postuk, and Philip Kerswell.


“Then we read in the Lake Cowichan Gazette Dr. Postuk is leaving as of September 2013. That’ll leave us with just one doctor serving the Cowichan Lake area of 3,500 people.”


And it won’t take long for Kerswell to burn out while folks seek physicians elsewhere too, Johnson signalled about the draining Brookside Medical Clinic.


That’s why she’s booked Thursday house call by VIHA.


“We need to work as a team to figure out what we can do to bring doctors to small communities like ours.


“Other communities are hurting as well. My concern is once we lose our second doctor, we’ll start losing our facilities like our pharmacy, Life Lab, and health centre.”


To fill the doctor shortage, Johnson suggested Victoria make it mandatory graduating physicians first serve in a small community “like they do with RCMP postings.”


“Once you get them here, I’m sure a few will get attached to a small community and stay. If not. we’d at least get another doctor coming in after them.”


That’s also why it’s critical to keep medical services in the lake.


“Doctors want to be stationed where all the amenities are, because time is everything for a doctor,” she said, hoping Tuesday’s meeting is well attended.


“If our town shows up, it’ll show VIHA we care, that this is a crisis, and we want to work together on a solution.


“I want to come back to Lake Cowichan for my doctor.”


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