A new youth health hub, in the works for Nanaimo Aquatic Centre, will see teens swim, work out and get a medical check-up under one roof.
The City of Nanaimo, Island Health and Nanaimo school district are in the concept stage for a youth health hub at the Third Street recreational facility.
Health clinics have opened for students at John Barsby and NDSS in recent years, allowing students on-site access to care ranging from prescriptions to pregnancy tests. Now the city is exploring the potential for a similar model and the first of its kind at one of Nanaimo’s public leisure centres.
The hub would replace a twice-a-week clinic at NDSS and is intended to have expanded hours and days that it’s open, such as during the summer months, but it could also answer a larger question for the city of how to integrate more health services into community facilities.
“We’re still at the concept stage but it’s looking really good,” said Richard Harding, the city’s director of parks, recreation and environment. “We have a room kind of designated for it. We’re just trying to figure out how we can actually build and operate it.”
Harding said it makes sense to pull a medical clinic into a recreation facility because the city’s centres are health solutions to a lot of people, “or can be or should be – so the more you can integrate them and they’re kind of seamless, the better.”
He also said integrating more health into community and recreation centres is “very common.” NAC, for example, has CBI Health Centre, a physiotherapy and rehabilitation clinic and city offers health-related programs.
“One of the ideas is, how do you make recreation centres more a solution to health than just a benefit to health?” he asked.
The details of the pilot are still being worked out, and it hasn’t been decided if the space will only be open to NDSS students, but the project is intended to target youths because of proximity to NDSS and the school’s need. If successful, Harding said it can be extended to different ages.
Scott Saywell, superintendent designate for Nanaimo school district, said students at NDSS are able to access doctors, nurses and a mental health professionals twice a week and the program is “wildly popular” with kids. When the school district learned of space at NAC, talks began about perhaps moving the health hub out of NDSS where renovations had been considered because the clinic had outgrown its space.
“We’re moving it next door into the NAC and the city is renovating that space and so we are expanding and we will be expanding the hours of operation as well as the number of days that it’s open so it will greatly benefit our students,” he said.
A staff presentation shows the pilot had a tentative start of this spring and Harding said that’s still a possibility.