The Norkam Healthcare Centre on Kamloops, B.C.'s North Shore — the only walk-in clinic on that side of the city — will be phasing out its walk-in clinic services over the next six weeks.
Clinic manager Patti Aldrich said the closure comes because the lack of available family physicians has meant the clinic is being used for primary care, overwhelming its doctors and staff.
According to Aldrich, approximately 5,000 new patients register at that walk-in clinic every year.
"The doctors struggle to keep up with care for extra patients," she said.
"I don't know of one person that would say I prefer to manage my health through a walk-in," Aldrich said.
New primary care centres in area
Alrich says the clinic decided now was the time close its walk-in services with two primary care centres having already opened in 2017, with a third slated to open in April.
The new centres are run by nurse practitioners, under the supervision of physicians, who act as primary care providers for those without a family doctor.
Patients can register with a primary care clinic so they have one place to go to for continued care.
Ministry reaching out
Local MLA and B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake says he's worked closely with the Norkam Healthcare Centre while opening the new primary care centres.
"It took us by surprise quite frankly," Lake said.
"We had always assumed in this planning for these primary health centres on the North Shore that that walk-in facility would continue to operate and the two would complement each other really well."
Lake says he's hoping to find a way to keep the walk-in clinic open.
"We've reached out to Patti [Aldrich] and Dr. Susan Vlahos to say is there anything we can do is there kind of a hybrid system, remuneration system that can be implemented that will allow you to keep the walk-in clinic part of the practice open," he said.
Chance of re-opening slim
But Aldrich says the chance of the clinic re-opening is slim.
"Our focus now is on filling our clinic up with family practitioners."
Furthermore she said the clinic reached out to the ministry for help before deciding to close, and received none.
"This is no surprise to the ministry that the burden on the one single medical director, Dr. Susan Vlahos, has been an ongoing issue," she said.
The Kinetic Energy Healthcare and Wellness Centre downtown, the Kamloops Urgent Care Clinic in Sahali, and Summit Medical Clinic in Sahali are the only walk-in clinics left in Kamloops.
With files from Shelley Joyce and Daybreak Kamloops