Skip to content

Interior Health busy recruiting after Vernon’s last walk-in clinic closes

The health authority recently attended two job recruiting events in Vernon
The Urgent and Primary Care Clinic in Vernon will now be relied upon more heavily after the city’s last walk-in clinic, the Sterling Centre, closed permanently on Wednesday, Nov. 15, 2023. (Brendan Shykora - Morning Star)

With Vernon’s last walk-in clinic now shuttered, Interior Health is continuing a recruitment push to fill health care job vacancies in the city.

The Sterling Centre walk-in clinic had its last day of operation Wednesday, Nov. 15. It’s closure followed the Superstore walk-in clinic’s closure on Sept. 30.

Sterling leadership said the closure was due to a lack of support staff and declined an offer for additional physician compensation from the province, saying that was not the type of support needed to keep its doctors — stretched thin with unattached patients and managing full-time practices — running the clinic.

In an email Thursday, an Interior Health (IH) spokesperson said the health authority is grateful for the work the Sterling Clinic has done to support health care in the community over the years.

“As a private clinic, we recognize the challenges that the team has faced. Unfortunately, we understand that the Sterling Centre Clinic did not accept the supports that have been offered through the Ministry of Health, and the division of Family Practice,” IH said.

The health authority says it is actively recruiting for a variety of positions in Vernon, adding since January it has seen a reduction in the vacancy rate of nursing positions from 21 per cent to 18.

“Forty-six new permanent staff and 63 casual staff have been recruited this year.”

IH’s recruitment team is maintaining a presence in the job market with job postings, direct sourcing, networking and participating in “a range of engagement related events.”

“Individual vacancies are evaluated to determine which method is most effective to fill the vacancy quickly,” the spokesperson said.

The recruitment team also recently attended two Vernon events, one in partnership with WorkBC and the other a Black Press post-secondary career fair.

“These events were a wonderful opportunity for candidates and those wanting to learn more about health care career professions from our team,” IH said. “The ongoing recruitment efforts have been successful in drawing net new talent to the organization as well as generating greater interest in health care careers.”

With no walk-in clinics, some are concerned Vernon Jubilee Hospital will become overburdened, but for now, IH says the hospital’s emergency department is seeing a normal fluctuation of patient volume, averaging 165 patient visits per day. There has not been a shift in normal day-to-day ER visits as a result of clinic closures in Vernon to date, although those closures only began Sept. 30.

“We will continue to monitor ER volume closely and are prepared to adjust our resources and staffing level accordingly—this is in line with our response protocol to other scenarios where there might be an increase in ER activities, such as during respiratory season,” IH said, adding it will have ongoing discussions with emergency department physicians at the Vernon hospital to address any issues they have directly.

Patients visiting the emergency department are triaged and seen in order of need, rather than in order of the time they arrive, and the health authority notes this is different from the walk-in model and that wait times can vary.

And while long-term solutions to health care access are developed, IH points to other local options that residents may be able to access in the shorter term.

“We recognize the impact of the closure of Sterling Centre Clinic for Vernon and area residents. Many residents will have questions on what this closure means to accessing care in Vernon. While long-term plans are underway, community members can continue to access primary care services through their family doctors, family nurse practitioners or book same-day urgent care appointments at the Vernon Urgent and Primary Care Centre (UPCC).”

Patients experiencing a medical concern can reach out to the triage nurse at the UPCC to get direction on the best way to seek care. The triage nurse can book same-day or next-day appointments with urgent care, recommend getting a prescription from a pharmacist or advise to go to the emergency room.

“These nurses are here to help Vernon residents navigate the health care system and ensure continued access to care. Patients who already have a family doctor are encouraged to reach out to their family doctor,” the health authority said.

Interior Health also offered a reminder that pharmacies can now help with routine and emergency prescription renewals. Since June 1, people in B.C. have been able to get prescriptions from their pharmacists for contraceptions and medications to treat 21 minor ailments.

“While this does not replace a family doctor, it is a helpful support network people in B.C. can easily access.”

Additionally, people can call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 to speak with a health service navigator, access health services and connect with an 8-1-1 nurse, dietitian, exercise professional, pharmacist or, if applicable, a physician.

READ MORE: Efforts to save Vernon’s last walk-in clinic fall short

READ MORE: Fake Dilaudid tablets with high overdose risk hit Interior Health region

Brendan Shykora

About the Author: Brendan Shykora

I started at the Morning Star as a carrier at the age of 8. In 2019 graduated from the Master of Journalism program at Carleton University.
Read more