Chilliwack doctors, from left to right, Dr. Vera Nyirenda, Dr. Angeline Sia-Venugopal and Dr. Micheal Riesling issued an “urgent notice” the week of April 20, 2020 to the 6,000 patients of Valley Family Practice that they have to be out of their current location by April 24, 2020. (Submitted)

UPDATE: Three Chilliwack doctors left scrambling after being ‘unexpectedly ordered’ out of clinic space

Valley Family Practice GPs out by Friday are now contacting 6,000 patients about new location

Three Chilliwack doctors are scrambling this week to contact thousands of patients after being “unexpectedly ordered” out of their current location, their keys to be handed in by Friday.

With the help of their medical office assistants and others, Dr. Vera Nyirenda, Dr. Angeline Sia-Venugopal and Dr. Micheal Riesling of Valley Family Practice are sending out urgent notices to the more than 6,000 patients impacted by the sudden circumstance they are in.

With all this happening during a global pandemic while the frontline health-care professionals are busier than ever, it makes for a challenging week ahead.

“People are very, very stressed,” Riesling told The Progress Thursday. “They want to talk to their doctor. Normally I would speak to 30 patients a day, now it’s more like 50 or 60.”

The doctors do not want to leave the location they were in with any animosity, but say there was a disagreement with the owners of the building over how things were being managed. This led to the hasty and unexpected move to have them out this week.

The owners of the building there Valley Family Practice was located did not respond to a Progress request to comment on the situation.

So, with help from staff, even the Division of Family Practice, and others, they are printing out 6,000 labels and involved in a big mailout to patients Thursday. They are also calling patients who have appointments coming up, explaining the circumstances that include the fact that by Monday, the old phone number to the clinic might not work.

As it was, the doctors were already practising in “pandemic mode” as Riesling put it. Patient load is up with people calling their doctor with possible COVID-19 symptoms. They are only seeing the sickest of the sickest in person using extreme PPE measures, while seeing most by telephone. Then there is the fact that Dr. Nyirenda is currently working from home in quarantine after recently working in the hospital.

But despite the chaos caused by the sudden news this week, Riesling is relieved to announce that very quickly they were offered a new home in unused clinic space at Yale Road Pharmacy (IDA) at 46198 Yale Rd.

“There is a bless in the mess, you could say.”

Part of that happy ending, as he puts it, is that the three doctors are participating in a somewhat new initiative to provide collaborative care as a way of improving outcomes for patients, but also possibly dealing with some portion of the 25,000 people without a family doctor in Chilliwack.

• RELATED: Recruiting physicians to practice in Chilliwack is an uphill battle

The team approach means each doctor is assigned other health professionals, for example, a physiotherapist, a nurse, a geriatric specialist, as part of a team.

“We have their phone numbers and the neat thing is now we will have some more space [at the new clinic] to incorporate them in,” Riesling said.

“I’m really excited about the prospect of the care that we will be able to provide with this collaborative model.”

The stress of dealing with the location crisis, however, is a distraction this week and Riesling is concerned about the stress of not just his patients, but those of Drs. Nyirenda and Sia-Venugopal as well.

“These people are our family,” Riesling said. “Some of these people, I delivered them.”

If any patients of Valley Family Practice have not yet heard about the situation this week, and read about it here first, Riesling said they can call the new clinic at 604-392-2121 and should be able to reach a medical office assistant.

• READ MORE: All your local, regional and national COVID-19 coverage in one place


Do you have something to add to this story, or something else we should report on? Email:
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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