North Van’s Urgent and Primary Care Centre opens to patients

If you’ve got a gash, they’ve got sutures. If you’ve got a broken bone, they’ve got splints. It’s not quite an emergency room but it’s a lot more than a walk-in clinic.

North Vancouver’s Urgent and Primary Care Centre began treating patients in Lower Lonsdale Monday morning.

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The centre, which is on the second floor of 221 West Esplanade, is intended to fill a gap in the medical system for people who don’t have immediate access to a primary care physician but need aid that doesn’t meet the threshold of an emergency.

“Things that you need to have care for within 12 to 24 hours,” said Sujata Connors, director, community and family health for Vancouver Coastal Health.

The clinic is open 365 days a year, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sundays. Much like an ER, patients check in and meet with a triage nurse who will prioritize patients with the most urgent needs. If someone shows up in bad enough condition, staff will call 911 and get them transferred to Lions Gate Hospital immediately.

At any given time, there will be typically three doctors or nurse practitioners on site, as well as nurses and social workers, ensuring there is someone looking after the patients’ needs even after they’ve left.

The centre also features a quiet room where social workers can offer counselling, meet patients’ family, or get someone with substance abuse issues on a first step into treatment.

Although not up and running yet, the centre will soon have X-ray imaging and an in-house pharmacy.

Anyone who receives treatment there will automatically have their info sent back to their primary care provider, if they have one. For those who don’t, the centre will help try to connect patients with the services they need, Connors said.

“It's not a standalone service where we're providing care in silo. It's with a whole system of care. If you’re coming in and we recognize that you need home support or home health, we will link you in. We'll do it all from here so that we can just make sure the continuity of care is maintained, and that all the people are in the know through the conversation with the patient and family,” she said.

More than 33,000 patients, or 16 per cent of people across the North Shore, are considered “unattached,” meaning they don’t have a regular primary care provider. In 2018-'19, VCH estimated 41 per cent of visits to the Lions Gate Hospital emergency department were actually classified as non-emergencies, with Sundays being the busiest day.

The centre is a partnership between VCH, the Ministry of Health, the North Shore Division of Family Practice, Seymour Health Group, the Squamish Nation and the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

North Vancouver’s is just the third in Vancouver Coastal Health’s jurisdiction to open, and the 12th in the province.

The annual staffing and operating costs at the centre are approximately $3.4 million, according to VCH, plus one-time startup costs of $115,000 and a $1.95-million capital investment.

In a release, North Vancouver-Lonsdale MLA Bowinn Ma welcomed the centre, which happens to be in the same building as her constituency office.

“I’m really excited that a new urgent and primary care centre has opened on the North Shore. Residents will be able to get better access to non-emergency care at this facility while simultaneously relieving pressure on the overburdened emergency room at Lions Gate Hospital,” Ma said.

Connors said she is especially proud of the team of health-care providers and administrators assembled in the centre.

“Honestly, the team is outstanding. I couldn’t be more proud of this group,” she said. “[Patients are] going to get great, great care here.”

urgent care
The waiting room and reception at the new North Vancouver Urgent and Primary Care Centre on West Esplanade. photo Paul McGrath, North Shore News

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