Premier John Horgan. (Photo/Black Press Files)

Horgan announces first ‘urgent primary care centre’ in Surrey

New ‘team-based’ facilities aim to reduce emergency room congestion and connect more people to doctors

Surrey will be home to one of the first of 10 urgent primary-care centres being set up in the province, Premier John Horgan announced in the city on Thursday (June 7).

The centres were an NDP election promise and aim to take pressure off of hospital emergency rooms, help people who don’t have a family doctor, as well as operate on weekends and hours outside of clinics.

The government says the North Surrey centre, and the primary-care network it will be a part of, will “work to connect people to consistent health-care providers in the community who are accepting new patients” and “make it easier for people to receive follow-up care.”

According to the provincial government, nearly 78,000 people in Surrey alone do not have a family doctor. Province-wide, it’s estimated one in six people don’t have a doctor.

“We are making innovative changes to public health care so that it works for British Columbians, providing them with timely, effective care in their communities,” said Premier Horgan in a statement. “By opening urgent primary-care centres in all of the health regions, we are delivering on our promise to improve quality of care, and provide more care to more people.”

See more: B.C. launches plan to tackle doctor shortage, emergency room congestion

Once open later this fall, the Surrey Urgent Primary Care Centre will be open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m at the City Centre 2 building (9639 137A St.), near specialists’ offices, other health-care services as well as Surrey Memorial Hospital.

“The proximity to the hospital will make it easy for hospital staff to refer patients to the centre for follow-up care, when appropriate,” a government release notes.

Surrey’s centre will be able to see up to 1,300 patients per week when fully up and running, according to a release, and will be able to “attach up to 5,000 patients over time.”

The government says Surrey’s centre will have a team of doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, pharmacists and other health-care professionals serving a variety of patients, including “vulnerable residents who have complex care needs, including the frail and elderly, people needing specialized mental health and substance use services, and the North Surrey/Whalley community.”

The centre will also do outreach by connecting nurses to community locations such as shelters.

See also: ‘Concept planning’ for a new Surrey hospital is underway

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Residents will be able to visit the facility to be assessed by a nurse, and a variety of appointment options will be offered, including one-on-one visits, appointments with multiple providers, “telehealth” visits, home visits and group appointments to support people with similar conditions.

The centre will also provide diagnosis and care for “non-emergency conditions” requiring medical attention within 12 to 24 hours, including lacerations, ear aches, back pain and sore throats.

Minister of Health Adrian Dix said the team-based care “is the future of health care” and “will be the standard for primary care throughout B.C.”

“Urgent primary-care centres are part of an overhaul of the way British Columbians access day-to-day health care,” Dix added. “Over half of the people living in B.C. have been unable to get same-day or next-day appointments with their primary-care providers. It’s time for families to have easier and improved access to health care.”

See also: Improving access to MRIs is ‘an important step,’ says Hospital Employees’ Union

See also: B.C. announces $175 million to cut hip, knee surgery wait times

The provincial government says all 10 urgent primary-care centres will open over the next 12 months, as part of its health care strategy.

In all, the strategy will see government fund and recruit 200 family doctors and 200 nurse practitioners, and hire 50 clinical pharmacists.

The BC Nurses’ Union said in a statement it is “encouraged” that the “long overdue” urgent care centres will open in the next year.

BCNU’s president Christine Sorensen said it has voiced strong support for team-based care.

“Once operational the centres will be fully staffed with nurses as well as other health care professionals and be of particular benefit to rural regions of the province,” said Sorensen in a release.

Sorensen noted some registered nurses can prescribe medication, order routine lab tests and direct patient care and should be utilized in RN First Assist and RN First Call which are advanced primary care practices.

“The literature is quite clear that having more, not fewer, professional nurses is strongly associated with greater patient safety and better health outcomes,” she added.

Sorensen said maintaining status quo and not hiring enough nurses is “risky, noting retiring family doctors are not always being replaced, as more doctors choose to be specialized.

“Transforming primary care, with an expanded role for nurses-across the continuum of care-is part of a solution to increase capacity within primary care services,” she stated.

Sorensen said recruitment and retention of nurses in B.C. “woefully inadequate,” noting nurse overtime cost Canada more than $785 million in 2016.

“Let’s make sure more nurses in B.C. will have the opportunity to practice to their full scope of practice in additional primary care centres and elsewhere, in order to keep the nurses we have, hire the nurses we need and ensure our future care in B.C. is the best it can be,” concluded Sorensen.

-With files from Black Press

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