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The only walk-in clinic on Kamloops' North Shore just closed its doors to new patients

Clinic manager Patti Aldrich says that the sign advertising a walk-in clinic will be removed.
April 01, 2017 - 12:03 PM

KAMLOOPS - If you’re a north Kamloops resident and need to get to walk-in clinic you’re going to need to cross a bridge.

Despite the efforts by Minister of Health Terry Lake, Norkam Health Centre’s walk-in clinic took its last new patients yesterday, March 31. Patti Aldrich, the clinic manager, says the clinic’s staff are disappointed about stopping the walk-in service, but find it necessary.

“Myself and our staff have been overwhelmed with the kindness to the point where people are bringing in cookies and candies and gifts, thanking us for what we’ve done so far, which I find a bit humbling because on one hand we feel like we’re letting them down,” she says. “On the bigger hand the people who are responsible for medical care in this province are the ones that are letting them down, but we play a part in that by shutting our doors, so that’s not a good feeling.”

It comes down to a lack of doctors, which is one of the biggest issues in Kamloops. Before closing, the clinic was accessed by about 20,000 patients over four years. With such a huge number of patients, Aldritch says clinic administration expressed concerns to the health ministry a year ago.

“We don’t have the amount of doctors to manage this number of patients,” she says. “We really only have three doctors managing a walk-in for this amount of people, it’s not doable.”

While Lake, who’s both the provincial health minister and MLA for the riding Norkam Health Centre is in, has made an effort, Aldritch says he’s been unable to produce the doctors needed, and lists three more who’ve closed practices in the last two months. 

“He’s not a magician, he can’t create doctors,” she says.

She does commend him for his efforts to create the primary care clinics which recently opened on the North Shore, but it hasn't alleviated the problem for the clinic.

A sign at the Norkam Health Centre.
A sign at the Norkam Health Centre.

The lack of doctors is a burden to the city's other clinics as well, Aldrich says.

“I appreciate all the walk-in clinics are in the same boat,” she says. “We recognize it’s not just us, but for the amount of doctors we’re employing, with the amount of patients and the complexities of the problems the patients have medically, it’s not sustainable.

“At the end of the day you’re not gong to solve this until we have an influx of doctors coming to this town willing to open family practices.”

Another potential solution Aldritch thinks could alleviate the doctor shortage is adding more nurse practitioners, and allowing them to work in private clinics, something that isn’t happening. She says some northern communities have health authority clinics run by nurse practitioners.

“If a nurse practitioner can run an entire clinic up north, why can’t a nurse practitioner work down here?” she says. “Everywhere up in the rural areas there are nurse practitioners running their own show.”

While the doors are shut to new cases, ongoing work will be wrapped up by the clinic and medical records will be kept.

“Any work we’ve done for them, if we’ve done labs, diagnostics referrals, anything that’s in play we’re 100 per cent responsible for,” she says. “The medical director will respond to anyone that needs follow up care.”

While the clinic is closing, the health centre’s family practices are remaining, and Aldritch hopes to expand them. As for a future clinic, she hopes a new one opens, but with a different task.

“Perhaps another walk-in clinic can be developed in town and behave like a walk-in clinic and not be forced into a primary care type of facility,” she says.


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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