Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows new Urgent and Primary Care Centre opens tonight at 6 p.m. and you can just walk right in with whatever’s bothering you that’s not an emergency.
“You do not need a referral to come to an urgent and primary care centre. You just walk through the door,” said Dr. Ursula Luitingh with the Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice.
She, along with Health Minister Adrian Dix and both MLAs were at the Friday opening of the centre located on the ground floor of Baillie House, next to the Ridge Meadows Hospital. Hours initially will be from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., weeknights, with hours expanding to 12 hours a day, seven days week by December. A permanent site will be found by 2020.
The centre will offer treatment for non-emergency health issues, everything from sprains and minor cuts, to infections, fevers, sore throats and ear aches. Mental health and substance abuse counselling, home health care and referrals to family doctors or nurses are also available at urgent and primary care centres. So far, 12 such centres have opened in B.C.
Dix added later that the centres are not intended to parallel services offered by family doctors but instead integrate health services and thus speed access to health care. Sometimes, for example, patients can be helped more quickly by a nurse or dietician.
“What we’re not looking to do is to build new edifices. What were interested in doing is providing excellent services,” Dix said.
“This is team-based care,” which involves doctors and a range of health care professionals, he added.
Dix also announced the formation of two primary care networks, one each in Pitt Meadows and Maple Ridge, that will offer better connection to health care professionals.
That involves hiring about 41 health care professionals over the next three years, including 11 full-time doctors, six nurses, pharmacists, social workers, and clinical counsellors. Included is a part-time nurse to support Katzie First Nation members. The network will focus on providing maternity care, doctor referrals, chronic care and indigenous health and mental health.
The goal is to be serving 19,000 patients within three years.
Annual operating cost for the two networks is $6.5 million, while the urgent and primary care centre will cost $1.7 million yearly.
The initiatives are intended to help fill the gaps in health care. Dix said when he became health minister, more than 18,000 people in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows didn’t have their own doctor.
“This is a reform that has been needed for a long time,” he added. Dix said the Ridge Meadows Division of Family Practice, “is one of the most progressive, thinking groups in health care, and that’s why we’re achieving this together.
“What’s happening here in Maple Ridge today is historic for everybody who lives in the community.” Many family doctors are nearing retirement or cutting back their hours.
“This is a reform that was developed here. It’s a provincial policy but this is a change that was developed here,” Dix said.
He added that 200 new doctors and 200 new nurses will be added to primary care networks across the province.
Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows MLA Lisa Beare said she was proud of her government’s action to increase action to health care.
“Sometimes we say it can be really difficult to be indigenous in today’s world, because we have to juggle our spirituality and our … beliefs around the day-to-day business,” said Katzie First Nation Chief Grace George. “And it can become really difficult and challenging to navigate what that looks like,” George said. But to be truly happy, we need to be healthy in every way, she added.
Primary care centres will be open in the evening and are expected to help ease the crowding in emergency wards.
The new initiatives will over better continuity of care, said Dr. Victoria Lee, CEO with Fraser Health.