Primary care assistant Rhonda McCormack in the reception area of the Urgent Primary Care Centre, located within G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital. Melanie Law photo

Quesnel’s new Urgent Primary Care Centre should be fully staffed by spring

New facility slowly ramping up to capacity, currently seeing average of three patients a day

Quesnel’s new health care offering, the Urgent Primary Care Centre (UPCC), has been open for business for close to a month and Northern Health’s Debbie Strang says things are running smoothly.

The new centre was announced at a press conference by B.C. health minister Adrian Dix on Oct. 10, with the facility opening its doors on Oct. 31.

Strang says in the month it’s been open, the centre has seen more than 65 patients. Once it’s running at full capacity, she expects it will treat around 30 people in an eight-hour shift.

Northern Health is seeking a permanent nurse practitioner for the facility, as well as a physician. Currently the centre is being staffed by local doctors and nurse practitioners who are taking shifts beyond their usual duties.

“We are making monthly schedules as we go, so that’s why we are encouraging people to check in, whether with a phone call or dropping in, if we have a provider on that day, or if we have to make an appointment,” explains Strang. Northern Health hopes to have the facility fully staffed by spring 2019. She says it’s been impressive to see how the health care community has stepped up to staff the new centre, with all shifts between now and the end of December staffed with a provider.

Strang says they have a few doctors lined up to visit the facility, so they are hopeful to have someone in place in the scheduled timeline.

The Urgent Primary Care Centre offers patient care Monday to Friday from 12-8 p.m., and on weekends from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. One of its purposes is to reduce the number of patients seen in the emergency room for non-emergent care.

“Some of the key populations we are focusing on right away are the clients who struggle with mental health and substance use, and seniors that have complex health conditions that are showing up in the emergency department but they are not emergent issues that need to be seen immediately, but they have some urgency to them that they can’t wait three or four weeks for an appointment,” says Strang.

Strang explains that one of the things that makes the UPCC different from a walk-in clinic is that patients have access to an entire team of professionals.

“It is staffed with our inter-professional team, so we have a nurse, a mental health clinician, primary care assistant, and licensed practical nurse, and local physicians are taking shifts, as well as local nurse practitioners.”

Patients are assessed when they arrive at the centre to determine which professional they should be seen by. The team will also connect back to a patient’s GP so they know if their client was seen.

“If we are seeing people who can’t get into their own doctor in a timely fashion, we are connecting back to the GP so that they know the client was seen … to keep that open. That’s better for the patient.”

For those who don’t currently have a regular doctor, one of the other mandates of the centre is to connect Quesnel residents with physicians.

“We will help unattached patients to attach. We are still developing that process, and figuring out which doctors have the capacity to take new patients,” says Strang.

Quesnel’s UPCC is the third such centre to open in B.C. as part of the province’s new primary heath care strategy, and has been allocated $1.1 million in annual funding. Other centres are open in Kamloops and Surrey. The province plans to open 10 in total.

Strang says it’s too early to assess what the impact has been on G.R. Baker Memorial Hospital’s emergency department, but it’s something they will be measuring going forward. Northern Health has distributed brochures to local clinics and in the hospital to help people to assess whether they need the emergency department, the UPCC or their family doctor or nurse practitioner.

A Northern Health brochure showing the best places to find treatment in Quesnel for a variety of illnesses or injuries. Northern Health brochure

Those accessing services should use the south entrance at the hospital, and follow signs for the Urgent Primary Care Centre. Strang encourages people to call if they are not sure which service they need.

“If people have questions, the best thing to do is phone. They will help them to navigate the system. Feel free to call, or even pop in if they want.”

READ MORE: Urgent Primary Care Centre announced for Quesnel

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