New centre aims to give more Victoria residents access to same-day health care

It'll be a little easier for Victoria residents without a family doctor to get medical attention this coming spring.

The province is planning to open its 14th urgent and primary care centre in the city by March 2020. The facility will be operated by the Island Health Authority, which has leased a space at 547 Michigan St. in the James Bay neighbourhood.

It will help serve people who don't have a physician and often bounce between a hospital emergency room and walk-in clinics.

'I think we all know how difficult it is these days to get care when you need it," said Jacqollyne Keath, board chair of the Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of B.C., on CBC's On The Island on Tuesday 

She said the new centre will have extended hours and be open on weekends year-round.

Centres treat non-emergency ailments

According to the province, the centre is expected to annually serve tens of thousands of patients who need medical attention within 12 to 24 hours but don't require a visit to the emergency department. Examples include sprains, ear infections, minor burns and urinary problems.

"Right now our emergency rooms are backed up with people going there with smaller issues that could possibly be better treated in a centre," said Keath.

General practitioners, nurse practitioners, nurses and mental health and substance-use clinicians will be recruited to staff the centre, which is part of the B.C. government's primary care strategy to fund and recruit 200 family doctors and 200 nurse practitioners provincewide.

"I think everyone recognizes with such a shortage of health-care professionals that it was time to look at the structure of health care and make some reforms," said Keath.

Renovations are underway on the building where the centre will open. It is the third in the Island Health Authority's region. The first centre in Langford has served more than 23,000 patient visits since opening in October 2018. A second centre opened in Nanaimo in June and is expected to serve up to 25,000 patient visits per year.