A new urgent primary care centre is coming to Nanaimo to take the pressure off the emergency room and connect patients with doctors.
B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix told reporters today that “Nanaimo is next” for urgent primary care. The centres have been rolled out in each of British Columbia’s health authorities, and will continue to be established every six months.
“Nanaimo’s next and not because of any other reason than there’s a significant need here and a large number of people unattached to a family doctor,” Dix said.
He said a formal announcement will be made at a later date, but said work has been going on for “the last number of months” and said an urgent primary care centre will be “up and running at or around the end of this fiscal year … March 31.”
He said the provincial government has gotten good response in the hiring process and he believes the new care won’t detract from existing health services in the area.
“It’s one thing for ministers to make announcements, it’s another thing to have the doctors and others available to provide services,” Dix said.
He said urgent primary care delivery will come from a team of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, other health professionals and others, and will help link patients with diagnostic services and support attachment to family doctors.
“It adds a very significant team-based, publicly supported initiative that adds to what we’re doing now,” Dix said.
The minister was asked if the centre would be set up in the north end, but did not reveal a location. He said the centres are set up a little bit differently in each community.
“I think here in Nanaimo … we may be a little further away from the hospital and that makes a lot of sense,” the minister said.
According to government news releases, an urgent primary care centre that opened in Victoria’s West Shore this fall had capital costs of $3.4 million and annual operating costs of $4.5 million. A Surrey centre had $3.1 million capital costs and $3.8 annual operating costs, and one in Vancouver was $1.9 million to start up and $3.7 million to operate annually.
Dix was speaking to reporters today at B.C. NDP candidate Sheila Malcolmson’s campaign office. Malcolmson said the news shows that the government is “carrying on a string of acting on the problems that we inherited from the B.C. Liberals” and said urgent primary care complements some of the other health care investments that are happening.
“That feels like the next step to make up for the fact that people are still continuing to have difficulty accessing the front-line family doctor and being able to take a bit of pressure off the emergency room when people need help,” she said.
One of the intentions of urgent primary care is to ease pressure after hours and on weekends, Dix suggested.
“Often in our health-care system, the reason people end up in our emergency room is there’s no other door open and this opens other doors,” he said.