The North Shore’s healthcare apparatus is staffing up, big time.
Health Minister Adrian Dix was at Lions Gate Hospital Wednesday to announced $11.5 million in annual funding to hire doctors, nurses and other health professionals to service North Shore residents who don’t have access to a family physician.
Over the next four years, the equivalent of 62 new full-time care workers will begin serving thousands of North Shore residents in three new “primary care networks.”
The networks will include 17 new family doctors and nurse practitioners, 20 registered nurses, three clinical pharmacists, social workers, as well as allied health providers.
“Part of what makes public health care public health care is the need to have great primary care in the community to help people not just when they have severe conditions and need to be in hospital, but to help people stay healthy and get healthy at home and live with chronic conditions,” Dix said. “This is the backbone of primary care reform.”
The networks will be headed up by the North Shore Division of Family Practice, the same organization running the new Urgent and Primary Care Centre in Lower Lonsdale. Unlike one-and-done visits with a nurse or doctor, the system is designed to provide continuity of care so patients’ next steps in their treatment are already in the works elsewhere in their network
“We're convinced that by bringing these elements of primary care back into the centre of care and working together as a team, we can support the entire healthcare system, the funders, the providers, and most importantly, the people of the North Shore whom we serve,” said Dr. Dean Brown, physician lead.
Eight of the staff will be dedicated to the First Nations and Aboriginal Primary Care strategy, including three full-time equivalents for traditional healers and elders from the Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh nations who Dix credited as being instrumental in formulating the plan.
North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma said there are too many people on the North Shore who don’t have access to primary care.
“We know that more than 27,000 people on the North Shore … still do not have a regular primary care provider, my household included,” she said. “Not having a primary care provider means that it can be challenging for people to access the health care that they need when they need it the most.”
Ma said she expects it will take some time to be able to recruit the healthcare workers, who are in high demand all over the province. But she said, the operational funding for them will remain in place unless a future government decides to cut it back.
Vancouver Coastal Health now has six primary care networks, including three in Richmond.