December 10, 2023

People living in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside will be able to access a variety of health services all under one roof after a first-of-its kind facility officially opened its doors Wednesday.

The Vancouver Urban Health Centre is located at 219 Main Street and will be open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The project was developed in partnership between the Vancouver Infectious Disease Centre, SRx Health Solutions and Atira Property Management, according to a release issued ahead of the official May 3 launch.

Dr. Brain Conway, the medical director of VIDC, says the goal of the new centre is to build on community pop-up clinics his team has offered on the DTES for years.

“We go to buildings, most of which are dealt with Atira Management, we’ll go for a half day and see about 30 people who just want to talk to a doctor, talk to a nurse—just want to talk and engage in care,” Conway told CTV News at the newly-opened facility.

“What the (VUHC) will allow is for us to offer the same service more broadly. You can come in, talk to someone and we’ll do our best to meet your needs, not only for that day but moving forward,” he continued.

While a variety of health-care services are offered in the neighbourhood, Conway says they are often fragmented.

“You go one place for your addiction care, one for medical care, another to get government forms filled out…we’ll do all those things for you in an integrated way, and we’re committed to doing it for the long term,” he said.

Janice Abbott, Atira’s CEO, says the pop-up clinics that started at her buildings 18 months ago have helped many tenants access health-care services they weren’t getting before.

“So few of our tenants have the sort of wherewithal to sit in clinics. Many women don’t want to sit in waiting rooms and clinics that are all-gender because there may be folks in there who may have caused them harm,” Conway told CTV News.

“Building relationships with our tenants is one of the key things that will get them to access health care,” she added.

According to Conway, a majority of the 20 staff members set to work at the new centre will be tasked with community outreach to ensure individuals who have sought care are getting their needs met.

In addition, a nurse will be on-duty during all hours of operation, and consultations with a doctor will be available on-site or virtually around the clock as well.

The facility will be staffed through SRx Health Solutions, which recently expanded operations to Canada.

A soft launch of the centre started six weeks ago, and since then Conway says between 25 to 30 people have visited daily.

“We’re not even supposed to be here!” Conway said.

“If everything was going well, we wouldn’t be having the issue we’re having in the inner city and we’re very much looking forward to being part of the solution,” he added.


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