Residents of Esquimalt, in B.C.'s capital region, are a little bit closer to a shot at a family doctor — but they're not there yet.
On Monday, the Esquimalt Urgent and Primary Care Centre (UPCC) opened at its permanent location at 890 Esquimalt Road. It will now be open seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., as opposed to Monday to Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m as it was when it opened at a temporary location in June.
As they have since the temporary opening, patients will be able to make appointments with registered nurses, mental health and substance use consultants and registered social workers.
For the first time, they'll also have access to urgent care from a physician or nurse practitioner — though they'll need to call to make an appointment for same-day care, and there's no guarantee they'll get one.
What they won't have, is the ability to sign up to get attached to the primary care side of the clinic. So far, the clinic doesn't have enough doctors to accept patients. That's expected to happen sometime next year.
The B.C. government has touted the UPCC model as a solution to the province's ongoing family doctor shortage. The idea is that community residents can become patients of the clinic, where they'll receive team-based care from a physician, nurse practitioners, nurses, and other health professionals.
The province hopes that by setting up the clinics, it can attract doctors who avoid family medicine because they aren't interested in the financial burden of running their own practice — not to mention the time it can take to run a business and be the sole health-care practitioner responsible for their patients.
However, one clinic in Victoria has struggled to keep doctors on staff, and others, like Esquimalt, have been slow to hire them in the first place.
Dr. Alec Walton retired from family practice earlier this year and is now working as an urgent care physician at the Esquimalt and North Quadra UPCCs. He doesn't understand why physicians aren't flocking to the clinics, which he says take away the "headaches" of running your own practice.
"This is the best job I've had in 30 years. It works well, it pays well, you're well supported."
He says he hopes he and others can use the clinics to educate new doctors about the model and convince them to sign on.