It opened Nov. 5, 2007 to provide a health option to a clientele – many with mental health and substance abuse issues – who may not otherwise access health care.
On Monday, the Vernon Downtown Primary Care Clinic on 29th Avenue celebrated its fifth anniversary knowing it’s been successful in providing service for the community’s marginalized population.
Since its opening five years ago, the clinic has seen thousands of patients, doubled the number of annual visits and provided an alternative for individuals who otherwise sought care in the emergency department at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
“We’ve seen incredible success at the clinic,” said Renee Nyberg, co-ordinator of primary care services.
“Last year, we had nearly 4,000 visits to the clinic, and we know many of those people would have either wound up in the emergency department or simply not sought care at all if the clinic wasn’t here.”
The Downtown Primary Care Clinic is staffed by two nurse practitioners, a medical office assistant and site coordinator. Two physicians see clients three days a week.
Statistics show that patients who previously frequented VJH’s emergency department more than 10 times a year have reduced their visits by as much as 40 per cent once they started using the downtown clinic.
Located in the First Nations Friendship Centre, the clinic is open to anyone who requires care and operates weekdays. A satellite clinic is provided one day a week at the Okanagan Indian Band health centre.
“Our partnership with the Okanagan Indian Band is working very well,” said Nyberg. “The nurse practitioners are developing positive relationships with the patients and providing care in a culturally appropriate manner.”
Okanagan Indian Band elder and friendship centre program director Mollie Bono blessed the anniversary celebrations with a prayer in the Okanagan language.