Patients in Vernon will now have better access to health care with the opening of a third urgent and primary care centre in the Interior.
The Vernon Urgent and Primary Care Centre is the 13th urgent and primary care centre to be announced in the B.C. government’s primary care strategy and is expected to serve 42,000 additional patient visits once fully operational in early 2020. The facility in Kamloops has served more than 10,320 patients since its opening in June 2018 and a facility in Kelowna is expected to open in December.
Interior Health first opened the centre to patients in October, but it will transition to its permanent facility location early next year. There, the clinic will operate seven days a week, evenings, weekends and statuary holidays.
Health Minister Adrian Dix said the team-based care the centre will provide a “completely different model” from a walk-in clinic. The centre will seek to attach patients to a full-time primary care provider and take a team-based approach for certain types of cases, such as patients suffering from mental health and addictions.
Dix highlighted several lagging areas in Vernon’s health profile that underscore the need for more primary care.
“If you compare Vernon to the provincial average, Vernon has higher rates of diabetes, of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease), of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and dementia, and a higher prevalence of anxiety and depression. “All of these can be more effectively managed with ongoing primary care.”
Following his appointment to the health portfolio in 2017, Dix said 700,000 British Columbians were without a family doctor and centres like this will help remedy that.
“By increasing the number of publicly funded health-care professionals in the community, thousands of people who currently lack a primary care provider will benefit from the increased access to same-day appointments for urgent needs, ongoing primary care and better longitudinal care into the future,” Dix said.
The Vernon Urgent and Primary Care Centre, which is estimated to cost $3.5 million a year, will be operated at 3105 28th Avenue through a partnership between Interior Health and Shuswap North Okanagan Divisions of Family Practice. It will recruit general and nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, mental health and substance-use clinicians to support Vernonite’s medical needs.
“This centre will increase access to care for our vulnerable and marginalized population, and provide a supportive, team-based care environment in which doctors can provide patient-centred care as part of a team,” Shuswap North Okanagan Division of Family Practice executive director Tracey Kirkman said. “The Vernon Urgent and Primary Care Centre will enhance our existing network of primary care services and improve the health of our community.”