Health clinic opens for VIU students

NANAIMO – Survey shoed 81 per cent of students, faculty and staff had gone to emergency room for care.

Nanaimo’s university students no longer have to leave campus to get medical care.

A Health and Wellness Centre has opened at Vancouver Island University, allowing students to get lab tests, birth control and biopsies on campus.

The clinic had a soft opening in May when most students had already left for the summer, but will hold an official opening this September, according to Dr. Carrie Chassels, the university’s director of student affairs, who says the service been believes advocacy for a medical clinic at the university has been ongoing for at least 20 years.

By 2013, the Nanaimo Division of Family Practice was involved, reporting to the News Bulletin that the idea was to hire a nurse practitioner to lead a campus clinic and help address an under-served student population, although the university itself was mum on the details. When Chassels arrived last August, she said she was tasked with the responsibility of the university’s’ health care vision.

According to the Chassels and Dr. Melissa Oberholster, co-chairwoman and physician lead for the division’s A GP for Me initiative, the aim is to decrease emergency room uses. The GP for ME survey, which had 500 students, faculty and staff at the university respond, showed 81 per cent had gone to the emergency room within the last 12 months.

There’s also hope by the university that the clinic will attract new students and make students feel they are well cared for while they study at the school.

It’s staffed by a nurse practitioner, who is available by appointment or drop in. The service is free and since it’s provided by a nurse practitioner and not a physician, no medical service plan coverage is needed, Chassels said.

“It’s a really exciting addition to the services that are provided for our students and we’re really looking forward to seeing the reaction of our returning students who will arrive in September and discover that they have access to a brand new medical clinic,” she said.

The clinic is a partnership that involves Island Health and the Nanaimo Division of Family Practice’s A GP for ME initiative, which has helped design the space and will offer ongoing support around managing the clinic.

Oberholster said the partnership seemed like a good fit with the survey showing a high utilization of the emergency room and anecdotes around mental health disorders, which can affect students’ academics and quality of life.

There’s also a vision by the university to see the clinic develop into a health centre for the Harewood community, according to Oberholster.

It’s currently in a temporary location in Building 200, and only available to university students.