EDITORIAL: A shot in the arm

The province offered a shot in the arm this week for health care on the North Shore with the announcement of a new urgent primary care centre in North Vancouver.

It’s a fairly new concept, which straddles the line between emergency room and walk-in clinic.

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The idea is to divert non-emergency cases from the ER and provide extra coverage on weekends and after regular doctors’ office hours. Anyone who has sat in the ER waiting for hours with a medical issue that wasn’t life threatening but couldn’t wait until Monday morning will see the benefit of such a centre.

Also importantly, the centre will also provide care for people without a family doctor and try to link patients with doctors who have availability.

That’s an admirable goal, especially in light of the shockingly large numbers of people on the North Shore who don’t have a family doctor. The doctors and nurses who work at the new centre will help.

But the real crisis in local health care remains the lack of regular family physicians available to patients.

Part of that has to do with rising costs of running a practice, the number of retiring doctors, and the complex care required by an aging population.

The government hopes better co-ordination between physicians and the provision of assistants like nurse practitioners will help lessen the burden, freeing them up doctors to see more patients. We hope so too.

We welcome more service for North Shore patients. We also hope the government keeps its eyes on the bigger long-term problem faced by patients – inability to find their own primary care doctors – doctors who are still the foundation of any health-care system.

What are your thoughts? Send us a letter via email by clicking here or post a comment below.

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