B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix announces details of an urgent primary care centre at a press conference Wednesday at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre. NICHOLAS PESCOD/The News Bulletin

Urgent primary care centre will be an expansion of clinic at Nanaimo’s Port Place

Early June start date now targeted

A promised urgent primary care centre will be located in downtown Nanaimo.

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix was at the Vancouver Island Conference Centre on Wednesday where he announced details of the project, which was promised during Nanaimo MLA Sheila Malcolmson’s byelection campaign in January.

Dix told reporters the government’s planned primary care centre will be located at the Medical Arts Centre inside Port Place mall. He said it will be staffed by more than 14 new full-time equivalent health-care providers including registered nurses and four doctors, and will accommodate up to 25,000 additional patient visits per year.

“I am very proud of this announcement,” Dix said. “It’s a great day for Nanaimo.”

The centre is expected to be operational by June and will provide “increased access to team-based care” for people in Nanaimo and the surrounding area, according to Dix.

“We’ve already started work on it,” he said. “The contracts have been signed, the work has been started and it is expected to offer the full range of services as it builds out in June of 2019.”

Dix also said, once fully operational, the centre will be open seven days a week, including on statutory holidays and will provide “same-day access to services” for “fragile seniors” and patients requiring mental health and substance abuse support services.

“It will offer new mental health and substance use walk-in urgent services, available seven days a week,” he said.

Dr. Robin Love said the clinic will assist clinical staff in collaborating with colleagues in areas like pharmacy, mental health and social work, and will benefit patients.

“We know from daily experience how important it is for patients to have good access to high-quality urgent primary care,” Love said. “Whether it’s for a child’s ear infection, a minor cut that needs stitches or complications from a chronic condition … primary care is an important health service that we all rely on at many times. It makes sense to invest in this important part of our health system.”

Nanaimo Mayor Leonard Krog said there are a lot “lost souls” living on the streets in Nanaimo and many more who don’t have access to primary health care, adding that the centre will make “significant difference” in their lives.

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley said his office routinely receives inquiries from residents requiring additional health-care support and that the centre will be able to address many of those needs.

“We have seniors who don’t have a family doctor, families who need same-day access to healthcare, people who are frail, chronically ill that don’t have access to the health-care services they need,” Routley said, adding “by establishing this urgent primary care centre we are helping to support people in this community with improved access to the everyday health care they need.”

The centre is a partnership project between the province, Medical Arts Centre, Island Health and the Nanaimo Division of Family Practice. It is expected to have an annual operating cost of $2.7 million, according to a government press release.

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