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Interior Health working to keep Vernon’s last walk-in clinic open

News of Sterling Centre closing comes just 2 weeks after clinic above Superstore shut its doors
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Vernon’s last remaing walk-in clinic, the Sterling Centre, is closing Nov. 15, 2023. (Google maps image)

Options for medical treatment are getting even slimmer around town.

Vernon’s last walk-in clinic, the Sterling Centre, is shutting its doors in less than a month.

“This office will be permanently closing after Nov. 15,” the centre’s voicemail recording said.

News of the closure comes just two weeks after the Primacy North Okanagan Medical Clinic, above the Superstore, closed Sept. 30.

READ MORE: Vernon walk-in clinic closing permanently

That leaves Vernon, and many North Okanagan residents, with no option other than Vernon Jubilee Hospital for urgent healthcare needs or the Vernon Urgent and Primary Care Centre following the closure.

But work is underway to keep the clinic open.

“Interior Health (IH) has been in regular communications with leadership at the Sterling Clinic on the challenges and potential solutions,” said Chris Simms, IH executive director of North Okanagan clinical operations. “Partners such as the Ministry of Health and Division of Family Practice are actively supporting these discussions and working on solutions to prevent the clinic from closure.”

Along with temporary stabilization funding that has been provided to the clinic, the Shuswap North Okanagan Primary Care Network has been exploring additional supports to keep Sterling open. The new Longitudinal Family Physician Payment Model also brings potential options to financially support the clinic.

“We recognize Sterling Centre Clinic’s impending closure is concerning for patients and we are committed to ongoing conversations with the providers on a transition plan,” said Simms. “We endeavor to ensure continued and expanded primary care services to the community in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Shuswap North Okanagan Division of Family Practice, First Nations communities and other community partners.”

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix visited with doctors at the Vernon Jubilee and Kelowna General hospitals in August.

Dix acknowledged that the lack of clinics in the city is something the government is working on.

“The one thing we need to work on is episodic care, which is what walk in clinics are,” Dix told the Morning Star.

“We have an urgent primary care centre in Vernon, that’s important and in part (a walk in clinic) one of the functions of urgent primary care centres. We have seen a huge increase in demand of the health care system doing more than they have done before.

“In Vernon, we had around 18 to 19 doctors in the (August) meeting and we had a really good exchange.”

According to Dix, hospitals were seeing six to 700 more people than what what they would usually see in the summer.

“Our teams are doing a remarkable job of dealing with that under the circumstances but that clearly puts pressure on everybody. The intake in the emergency room is often a reflection of a lack of long term care beds so the issues in health care are not single, but linked.”

After touring the new interventional radiology suite at the KGH on Aug. 14, Dix was in Vernon to visit VJH Aug. 15.

“What I thought was important for Vernon was the focus of all the staff on the issues of mental health and addiction.”

Sterling Centre is currently open Monday to Friday, from 12 to 7 p.m., and Saturdays and Sundays, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. It is located at 3210 25th Ave.

Residents can register online to get a primary care provider through the Health Connect Registry at: healthlinkbc.ca/health-connect-registry.

Community pharmacies can assist with routine and emergency prescription renewals. And as of June 1, 2023, people in B.C. can get prescriptions from their pharmacists for contraceptives 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.

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Jennifer Smith

About the Author: Jennifer Smith

Vernon has always been my home, and I've been working at The Morning Star since 2004.
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