Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu says an offer from the province is “on the table” to help keep Vernon’s Sterling Centre walk-in clinic open, but so far an agreement hasn’t been reached.
The Sterling Centre, Vernon’s last walk-in clinic, announced last week that it is closing permanently starting Nov. 15. Interior Health has since said it is working to keep the clinic open, but so far there is no word on whether the health authority will be successful.
Sandhu told The Morning Star the B.C. government has made an offer to Sterling that hasn’t been accepted yet.
“Hopefully it will be accepted and we can continue to have the access to the Sterling clinic,” Sandhu said.
She did not speak specifically about the potential deal with Sterling, saying only that both sides are negotiating.
“I’m really hopeful that we can work on the solution that’s on the table with the Sterling Centre as many people I talked to weren’t aware that it’s not part of Interior Health, it is a privately owned walk-in clinic. However, it’s our government’s commitment to make sure that people have the access to health care and doctors in timely fashion,” Sandhu said.
Sandhu said the current offer is “more than what was previously offered twice.”
She said she’s been working with Sterling physician Dr. Chris Cunningham over a period of “months” to find ways to support the clinic.
Sandhu was asked what the impact might be on Vernon Jubilee Hospital’s emergency room if the Sterling Centre to close. She said this is her “top concern,” referencing “workload issues” that would be exacerbated by the clinic’s closure.
She said the “back-up plan” would be to expand the capacity of the Urgent Primary Care Centre in Vernon, “so more people can be connected and able to go get services from there.”
Sandhu also pointed to the new prescribing powers the B.C. government has given pharmacies, allowing them to treat 21 minor ailments, which could help take pressure off the hospital.
Sandhu said she brought concerns to the Premier’s office about the high workload at Vernon Jubilee Hospital even prior to Sterling Centre’s announcement of its impending closure.
The Sterling Centre did not immediately respond to a request for comment.