Island Health closes travel clinic in Nanaimo

NANAIMO – Island Health looks to the private sector to provide travel vaccinations and advice.

Nanaimo’s publicly-run travel clinic is packing it in as Island Health looks to focus its resources on higher-priority public health issues and government-funded services.

Island Health announced last week it plans close its Nanaimo and Courtenay travel clinics early next year, leaving travel advice and vaccinations to pharmacists and physicians.

The Nanaimo clinic and its public health nurses have been doling out travel vaccinations, advice and supplies like mosquito netting for more than 2,000 clients annually since 2007. According to Brett Hodson, the health authority’s manager of public health, it was part of nurses’ practice, despite not being government funded. Clients were charged for consultations and vaccinations. Now, he says Island Health is getting out of the fee-for-service business, which can be made available through private providers.

Pharmacists, for example, can’t immunize children under the age of five, but could hire nurses to do the work. Doctors can also provide travel clinic services.

“I think given that public health priorities are increasing in importance … here is an opportunity to really get out of the business that can be supported by the private sector,” said Hodson. “We’d like to see a specialized travel clinic move into the markets in Nanaimo and Courtenay. See physicians pick up this business as a means to support the community or pharmacists expand their services.”

The nursing and administrative resources are expected to be rerouted to higher priority public health issues, the Central Island Communicable Disease program and toward increasing public health nursing capacity in the North Island.

The pending closure was news to David Ram with Rx RAM Pharmacy Specialists, whose business also already provides a full service and walk-in travel health clinic in Nanaimo. On-site pharmacists and nurses are available at the Townsite Road pharmacy.

A second travel health location will open at the new Millstone Medical Clinic in November.