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North Kamloops's only walk-in clinic is closing as primary care clinics open

The Norkam Health Centre walk-in clinic is closing this spring.
March 06, 2017 - 4:48 PM

KAMLOOPS - The lone walk-in clinic on the North Shore is planning to shut down operations in the coming weeks.

The Norkam Health Centre walk-in clinic has become too much for the centre's staff to handle and with the opening of two primary care clinics on the North Shore, clinic manager Patti Aldrich says the walk-in will be closing down this spring.

"At the end of the day, the reason the decision was made today is in response to the new opening of these clinics," she says.

The last day for off-the-street patients is likely March 31, Aldrich says. The primary care clinics opened over the past two weeks. They are designed to operate more like a traditional family doctor's office, except they operate as a team, including nurse practitioners and family doctors. Walk-in clinics may have become the default option for many people seeking immediate medical care, but they aren't designed for long-term treatment.

“We fully expect the public is going to be up in arms, I respect that, but you’re talking to someone here who sees this every morning,” Aldrich says. “We take this every day, the brunt and the frustration of the patients of Kamloops.”

The walk-in clinic was supposed to be a small, complimentary clinic to go along with the family practices located at the centre. However, since it opened in August 2013 19,000 patients have made at least one appointment. Many patients are using it as a primary care service since they lack a family doctor, who would normally fill that role. Aldrich wants to see those patients moving to the primary care clinic system where they can make appointments for serious or long term issues, similar to a doctor's office.

“We’re not talking your basic walk-in clinic appointment patients,” she says. “We’re talking about patients with extremely fragile health, we’re talking about our elderly, we’re talking about our cancer survivors, we’re talking about people with chronic health diseases.”

The clinic also sees a large number of people who are looking for help outside of physical health needs.

“A lot of people’s situations that they come to us with aren’t necessarily physical medical issues, there’s a lot of people that struggle with mental health issues,” she says. “We can only do so much.”

The load has been daunting to the staff. Aldrich says while the centre received the only new locum who applied to work in Kamloops after health minister Terry Lake’s announcement last fall, it's wearing out the staff. Sometimes more than 50 per cent of the patients on any given day are returning with issues. Aldrich says this shows the clinic isn’t working as a walk-in clinic, but as primary care for some people. The clinic typically operates on a first-come, first-served basis, with slots filling up as soon as the clinic opens. However, they've started taking appointments a day in advance for people who are returning.

Now that the primary clinics are open, she wants to see people look there for their health care needs.

“We made this decision in response to these primary care centres that Terry Lake has brought to fruition,” Aldrich says. “I think it’s better than trying to funnel all your care needs though a walk-in clinic centre.”

She points out the public’s health care needs are the government’s responsibility, not a clinic’s.

“I have to ask people to think about who’s responsible to uphold the medical system?” she says. “Responsibility of the medical care, even at the point of a walk-in clinic, should come from the Ministry of Health.”

The clinic was started to help the North Shore community, she says. Aldrich isn't happy about having to close, and hopes the primary care clinics may open up a walk-in clinic module.

The clinic will soon be gone but the health centre is continuing. Aldrich says they’re trying to expand the practices there and hope to have new doctors soon, though she says it’s too soon to be sure. While they are closing the clinic now, there is a possibility it could reopen in the future if current issues are dealt with.


To contact a reporter for this story, email Brendan Kergin or call 250-819-6089 or email the editor. You can also submit photos, videos or news tips to the newsroom and be entered to win a monthly prize draw.

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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2017
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