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Health care: four primary care networks for Greater Victoria area

New downtown Victoria UPCC opened on Pandora Avenue on July 19, 2021.

Wednesday July 21, 2021 | VICTORIA, BC

by Mary P Brooke, B.Sc., Editor | Island Social Trends


It’s a big step in primary care transformation for Greater Victoria, says BC Minister of Health Adrian Dix. He made an announcement in downtown Victoria today about four new primary care networks to address the shortage of doctors and patient access to primary care.

A new downtown Victoria primary urgent care centre opened this week, as announced today by Dix, as part of primary care network strategy.

Dealing with the shortage:

This announcement is significant in that it’s part of a loud BC Government response toward siphoning off some of the strain of a serious doctor shortage in BC, a situation which is particularly acute in the Greater Victoria area.

The government says: “People living in Victoria, Saanich and Oak Bay will benefit from the Province’s transformation of everyday health care for people, with the establishment of four primary care networks (PCN) and the province’s largest urgent and primary care centre (UPCC).”

There has been a serious shortage of physicians in the Greater Victoria and south Vancouver Island area for many years now, as many career-physicians have retired. New younger doctors tend to want a balanced lifestyle and not carry the burden of operating their own full practice; the province has come up with the idea of UPCC’s to try and deal with the need.

langford, westshore urgent primary care centre, health care
BC Health Minister Adrian Dix addressed crowd at opening of the Westshore Urgent Primary Care Centre in Langford October 26, 2018. From left: Mitzi Dean, MLA (Esquimalt-Metchosin), Premier John Horgan, Health Minister Adrian Dix, Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy. [West Shore Voice News file photo by Mary P Brooke]

The Westshore Urgent and Primary Care Centre opened in Langford in November 2018. The James Bay UPCC opened in spring 2020. Sooke in 2019 got its own style of medical centre boost, with funding for clinic expansion for an existing doctor-owned facility. The clinic in Esquimalt will be fully operational by year-end 2021.

New patient-focused services:

“These four primary care networks are bringing the needs of patients and their health-care workers to the forefront and transforming how we deliver primary care into the future,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “Victoria’s new patient-focused services reflect the needs of the local community and will add capacity across four new PCNs and a new UPCC, linking services to ensure people get the support they need when they need it and where they need it.”

Urgent and primary care centres bring together health-care workers – including family physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and others – to provide primary care to patients who currently do not have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, and weekend and after-hours care, taking pressure off hospital emergency departments.

Linking family practitioner offices with other health-care professionals:

A primary care network links together family practitioner offices in a local community with a range other health-care professionals – including nurse practitioners, nurses, mental health therapists among others – to provide patients access to a comprehensive range of primary-care services from a team of health-care professionals working together to better meet the needs of individual patients and the community.

Adding 96.5 more full-time health-care workers:

Over the next four years, across the four new primary care networks, up to 96.5 more full-time health-care providers will be recruited. This includes family physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, clinical pharmacists, Indigenous health providers and allied health professionals, such as social workers and mental health clinicians. There are 43 primary care clinics participating in the PCN with 126 family physicians.

The four primary care networks will work together to provide patient-centred care for people across Greater Victoria, including James Bay, Fairfield, Oaklands, Fernwood, downtown Victoria, Vic West, Oak Bay, Gordon Head, Shelbourne, Interurban, Tillicum, Quadra and Swan Lake.

Over the past two years, engagement has involved the Victoria Division of Family Practice, Indigenous community partners, patient partners, Island Health and key community organizations that deliver primary care to inform PCN service design.

The PCNs will build on other investments in the region:

  • The publicly funded PET/CT scanner suite at the BC Cancer centre in Victoria, which opened in 2019.
  • Esquimalt Urgent and Primary Care Centre – Victoria
    * Currently offers limited health services provided by a registered nurse, certified practice nurse or a mental health and substance use consultant. Work underway to expand services.
  • James Bay Urgent and Primary Care Centre – Victoria
  • Nanaimo Urgent and Primary Care Centre
  • North Quadra Urgent and Primary Care Centre – Victoria
  • Westshore Urgent and Primary Care Centre – Langford
  • Expanded team-based care at the West Coast Family Medical Clinic in Sooke
  • A 3T MRI at Royal Jubilee Hospital
  • Island Sexual Health Community Health Centre

Networks to strengthen high priority needs:

The Victoria networks were developed to better meet the specific needs of the community. The networks will strengthen services identified as high priority. These include:

  • better access to health care for those with mild to moderate mental health conditions;
  • better co-ordinated services for families and seniors who are frail and people with complex health issues;
  • more access to comprehensive services for people living in poverty; and
  • culturally safe care for Indigenous peoples.

South Island MLAs weigh in:

  • “When we need to see a health-care provider, we want to know that we can see someone who can help soon,” said Lana Popham, MLA for Saanich South. “The new primary care networks and urgent and primary care centre will do just that.”
  • Murray Rankin, MLA for Oak Bay-Gordon Head, said: “People living in Greater Victoria often struggle to get access the health-care services they need when they need it and closer to home. “I am looking forward to the additional access to primary care services that I know will benefit thousands of people in the region.”
  • “We know that people in our region deserve the best possible access to primary care providers,” said Rob Fleming, MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake. “These investments in primary care in Victoria show that government is listening to the needs of residents and is committed to make it easier and faster for them to get the health-care services they need, closer to home.”
  • “I am proud of our government’s primary care strategy and our continuous action to help people live healthier, better lives by improving access to health care,” said Grace Lore, MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill. “I look forward to seeing how the new UPCC will bring meaningful change to the lives of people in the region.”

New UPCC in downtown Victoria:

The newest UPCC in the Greater Victoria area is downtown at 1107 Pandora Avenue, which opened two days ago on July 19, 2021.

That location is intended to serve more people and families in Greater Victoria with better access to same-day, urgent, non-emergency health care for medical issues varying from minor injuries to mental health, as well as everyday primary care.

That UPCC is the largest in the province at 840 square metres (9,045 square feet). For patients who are already attached to the existing local family practices that move into the UPCC, they will continue receiving the ongoing, consistent health care they need at the centre.

langford, doctors, westshore urgent primary care centre
Private area for doctor consultations at the Westshore Urgent Primary Care Centre in Langford [West Shore Voice News photo – October 2018]

Patients will be seen by the team of health-care providers and will be able to self-refer to the UPCC for care. Once the centre is open, it is anticipated that the health-care team will include a range of health-care professionals, including family physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, a mental health and substance use consultant and social workers.

Currently, hours of operation at the downtown Victoria UPCC are 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. When fully staffed, those hours will be expanded to 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and care will be available seven days a week, including statutory holidays.

The downtown Victoria UPCC is a collaboration between Island Health and the Victoria Division of Family Practice. This is the 25th UPCC announced under the government’s primary care strategy.

Now 53 PCNs in BC:

As of May 27, 2021, 53 PCNs have been established in the province with a total of 429.27 net new full-time equivalent staff (FTEs) hired, including:

  • 31.01 family physicians;
  • 91.3 nurse practitioners;
  • 104.5 registered nurses;
  • 123.02 allied health professionals;
  • 6.75 Indigenous Wellness Providers; and
  • 72.69 administrative support personnel.
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===== LINKS (supplied by BC Health):

To learn more about the Province’s primary health-care strategy

To learn more about the Province’s strategy to increase the number of nurse practitioners

To learn more about the Province’s strategy to recruit and retain more family medicine graduates

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