BY BILL PHILLIPS
While it wasn’t the announcement of the much-anticipated surgical towers for Prince George, Premier John Horgan did make a pretty substantial health care announcement in the city Wednesday.
Horgan, along with Health Minister Adrian Dix, announced that a new urgent and primary care centre will open in Parkwood Mall by June. It will be accompanied by the launch of a primary-care network in the city.
“By establishing a primary care network here in the Northern Health Authority we will linking patients to the care they need,” said Horgan. “We will be providing more resources to deliver on that.”
Those resources will include 30 new health care practitioners, who will be hired in the North.
“The urgent care centre will provide after-hours care, weekend care, and 8,000 visits per year,” he said. “That will certainly go a long way to attach people to the practitioners they need. The good news is that Prince George is more than willing, ready and able to take this on because you were early adherents to the notion of primary care networks.”
The 30 new health care practitioners will include 26 nursing and allied health-care professionals, one general practitioner, two nurse practitioners, one clinical pharmacist, an Elder to ensure cultural safety and and two new resources to support extended access to lab services in the community. Victoria is providing approximately $4.7 million in annual funding by the third year to the Prince George network, including the new urgent and primary-care centre as new positions are added and patients are attached.
All of Prince George’s 32 primary-care clinics and two community health centres will work together to provide team-based care to the entire population.
The centre will offer drop-in team-based care in the evenings and weekends for people with non-life-threatening conditions who need to see a health-care provider within 12 to 24 hours but do not require the level of expertise found in emergency departments. During the weekdays, providers will be available on-site to provide follow-up care and care coordination through scheduled appointments.
Dix said the plan truly is community-driven.
“We felt that for this to work, on the ground, it can’t be pronounced from Victoria,” he said. “It has to be developed in the communities themselves. The reason we’re in Prince George today is because the Division of Family Practices, the Northern Health Authority, local nurse practitioners stepped up and said ‘we want to do this here.’”
The new services will include extended hours of care, teams of interdisciplinary health-care professionals and attachment opportunities, which will offer a solution for the approximately 2,000 people in Prince George who do not have a consistent primary-care provider, he said.
“What you see here today, was developed in Prince George,” Dix said.
New and existing health-care professionals will work together and with health authority and community organizations to provide team-based care to the entire population of Prince George.
At full capacity, the new centre is expected to add capacity for 8,000 additional patient visits per year for both urgent and primary-care appointments.
The urgent and primary-care centre will be staffed by general practitioners from the community and be supported by nursing and allied health professionals to address patients’ health-care needs in one setting. A nurse practitioner, mental-health and substance-use clinician and primary-care nurse will provide care at the centre during the day.
“We believe that an integrated system of primary and community care is foundational to a strong and vibrant health-care system in the North,” said Colleen Nyce, board chair, Northern Health. “We are very pleased to be a partner with health-care professionals, the Prince George Division of Family Practice and the First Nations Health Authority in this endeavour. We are grateful to the Province of B.C. for making this opportunity available to the people of Prince George.”
As part of this work, a new outreach primary-care program will be established. Based out of Prince George’s two community health centres, Central Interior Native Health and the Blue Pine Clinic, health-care providers will reach out to the community to bring primary-care to patients where ever they are. The First Nations Health Authority, Northern Health and the Division of Family Practice are also working together to establish a mobile support team to deliver mental-wellness services to First Nations communities in the Prince George region.
“Providing comprehensive coordinated care for the people of Prince George is at the centre of all of our work at the Prince George Division of Family Practice,” said Dr. Catherine Texter, physician lead at the Division of Family Practice. “The concept of a primary care network is completely aligned with this work.”
She said the over-arching goal is for patients to access care, in the right place, at the right time. She said the urgent care facility is an exciting step forward.
“For more than 20 years, family doctors in Prince George have worked together to provide after-hours primary care to our citizens at the Nechako Medical Clinic,” she said. “This new funding will augment and improve the after-hours services in a new, larger, well-equipped location close to the hospital and diagnostic facilities.”
Primary-care networks are also being implemented in Fraser northwest communities, Burnaby and South Okanagan Similkameen.
The Quesnel Urgent and Primary Care Centre opened on Oct. 31, 2018. Since then, the centre has had 938 patient visits. With government’s new surgical and diagnostic strategy, people living in Prince George and northern British Columbia will have reduced wait times for hip and knee surgeries, and a 70% increase in magnetic resonance imaging exams.
In addition, work is underway to improve several hospitals in northern B.C., including significant steps to build new hospitals in Terrace and Fort St. John, a redeveloped and expanded Dawson Creek and District Hospital, and a new emergency department and intensive care unit at G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital in Quesnel.
Prince George Urgent and Primary-Care Clinic
The new urgent and primary-care centre in Prince George is a partnership between the Ministry of Health, Northern Health, the Prince George Division of Family Practice, Doctors of BC and First Nations Health Authority.
* The urgent and primary-care clinic will be located in the Parkwood Place Mall, 1600 15th Ave.
* By June 2019, the centre will be open to the public for drop in urgent-care services between Monday and Tuesday from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m.; Wednesday to Friday from 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. and all-day Saturdays and Sundays from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
* The centre will also offer follow-up services during the day from Monday to Friday to urgent and primary-care patients, as recommended by the urgent and primary-care team.
* Along with general primary care, services will also be available for marginalized or vulnerable individuals who may struggle to make or keep appointments with their regular primary-care provider, including mental health professionals.
* Annual staffing and operating costs are projected at approximately $1 million. One-time startup costs are estimated at $200,000.
* Primary care is the day-to-day health care given by a health-care provider.
* Urgent primary care is the care that people need within 12 to 24 hours, for conditions such as sprains, urinary problems, ear infections, minor cuts or burns.
* This is the province’s eighth urgent and primary-care centre to be announced. Centres also exist in Kamloops, Quesnel, Victoria’s West Shore, Surrey, Vancouver’s downtown/west end, Burnaby and Nanaimo.