A new, expanded version of a walk-in medical clinic was announced Friday in Langford as part of the provincial government’s strategy to deliver primary health care to more citizens.
Premier John Horgan and Health Minister Adrian Dix stood outside a building at 582 Goldstream Ave. — 7.8 kilometres from Victoria General Hospital — to announce the opening of the Westshore Urgent Primary Care Centre.
The new centre, which has upgraded treatment and examination rooms when compared with typical walk-in clinics, cost $3.44 million. It will operate at an annual cost of $4.45 million with the Capital Regional Hospital District committed to paying 30 per cent over 10 years.
As at other medical clinics, patients can walk in without an appointment. But the urgent primary care approach offers a team of medical professionals: physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and specialists with expertise helping patients with mental illness and addictions.
Urgent medical care is defined as something that must be seen within 24 hours, such as sprains or urinary problems. It will also offer help for less urgent health concerns.
Horgan, whose riding includes the area, praised Langford and the West Shore for their community growth and noted at least 15,000 of its citizens — 19 per cent — are not registered with a family doctor. The new urgent primary care approach will help.
“As more seniors move here and more families move here, they need more health care,” he said. “Today we are talking the first steps to address that.”
Dix noted the new centre in Langford is the fourth in B.C. after Kamloops, Quesnel and Surrey, and another six are to open by May.
The urgent primary care centres are part of the government’s plan to address the needs of the estimated 750,000 British Columbians who are not registered with a family doctor.
“Having care and facilities in the community that are responsive specifically to you are critical,” Dix said. “We need to hear and take notice of one another when we fall.
“This is the strength of public health care,” he said.
Dix said the government will hire at least 200 family doctors, 200 nurse practitioners and other medical staff. By providing alternative pay strategies, such as salaries — versus fee-for-service payments — doctors and other health professionals can practise medicine without having to pay to start a clinic or buy into a private practice.
New doctors, in particular, will be relieved of renting a clinic, paying a staff and all the other associated overhead.
Judy Darcy, the minister for mental health and addictions, said she is proud to see mental-health and addictions specialists included as part of the new primary health team.
The mental-health specialists will deal with things such as anxiety, panic attacks or mood disorders. A patient dealing with a mental illness such as schizophrenia or having a psychotic episode will be sent to a hospital.
Darcy said one in five British Columbians is dealing with a mental-health and/or a substance-abuse issue. The new clinic begins a provincial approach that recognizes mental-health and substance abuse issues need medical assistance rather than moral judgment.
“This announcement is saying people who have mental-health and addictions issues must be treated with the same dignity and respect and offered the same access to care as any other patient,” Darcy said. “Mental health and substance abuse are health issues. Period.”
The new clinic will accommodate 128 patient visits per day and 40,000 per year. It opens Nov. 5 with plans to operate seven days a week.