Kamloops doctor shortage worsens

Campus Medical Centre still healthy, but appointments must be booked far in advance

TRU’s Campus Medical Centre in Old Main is booking one month in advance. (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

TRU’s Campus Medical Centre in Old Main is booking one month in advance. (Wade Tomko/The Omega)

Earlier this month, Aspen Medical Centre on Tranquille Road lost two of their physicians. Doctors Arshad Mahmood and Ambreen Bushra said they would be relocating to somewhere else in the province, leaving more than a handful of Kamloops residents without a doctor. Aspen is still in business, but is now being run by just one physician: Dr. James Howie.

To make matters worse, the closure comes right after Ashcroft lost one of its family physicians. With Logan Lake lacking any general practitioners as well, many residents in the Thompson-Okanagan are being re-routed to Kamloops. The Thompson Region Division of Family Practice, an organization that seeks to improve local residents’ access to health care, has been unable to confirm if more doctors will come to fill the void.

Here on campus, the Campus Medical Centre offers students access to a general practitioner, even if they don’t already have a family doctor. As long as you are a student, faculty or staff, you are welcome to use the services provided by the centre. Students who already have a family physician can book appointments as well, but are discouraged from doing so, as it would further strain on the university’s medical system.

The centre also receives a large number of international students. “Since it’s easier and less time consuming to use the Campus Medical Centre instead of walk-ins, we see quite a few international students up here,” Turnbull said. “Plus we know the internationals better than anyone else in town, making it easier on both us and them.”

The centre deals more often with common cases rather than chronic care patients like a regular family practitioner might.

They also play a large role in vaccinating students in the nursing and animal health tech programs against a number of maladies they may encounter, as well as doing physicals for all of TRU’s athletic teams. Come flu season, the Campus Medical Centre also organizes flu clinics in conjunction with the community. But with only three doctors, who alternate full-time shifts, most appointments are quick and only deal with the most severe cases.

However useful, the centre isn’t without its own problems. They have recently seen a large influx of patients and expect more in the coming months.

“We used to do walk-ins, but in the last two years we have definitely seen a large increase in students using the medical services here,” Turnbull said.

With roughly 50 patients being seen each day, and sometimes upwards of 400 in a week, it has been years since the centre offered walk-in services. Currently, the centre is completely booked for the next month. As such, they have been turning away a larger amount of students this year.

With the updated College of Physicians and Surgeons of B.C.’s standards regarding walk-ins taking effect earlier this year, more B.C. residents are finding it harder to see a health care professional. The updated standards, which made it easier for patients to declare a walk-in as their primary care provider, could have the effect of making walk-in clinics obsolete as they start to allow appointments to be made instead of working on a first-come-first-serve basis.

As such, the province has already dealt with several walk-in closures, most of them in the Lower Mainland. If students and staff already lack a family physician and can’t get into a walk-in clinic, the centre may find itself much busier in the future.