The B.C. government has announced that a new Community Health Centre (CHC) will be opening for families in Victoria next week.
The newly renovated centre — the Luther Court Community Health Centre — will provide more access to everyday primary healthcare services and social supports once it officially opens.
Work is currently underway where the centre will be located at 1525 Cedar Hill Cross Rd. in order to create 260 square metres of purpose-built clinical space, says the government.
“I’m really delighted that Island Health has made the investment and this clinic will start virtually next week,” said Rob Fleming, MLA for Victoria-Swan Lake.
The centre is anticipated to open in June 2022, however, some services will begin to be offered as early as March 16, before the completion of the expansion and renovation to the CHC.
The Luther Court CHC team will first expand to include a physician and three nurses who will begin attaching patients and offering virtual appointments next week. Patients needing in-person care will be able to receive services at a temporary space off-site.
Dr. Damien Contandriopoulos, professor and acting director of the Institute on Aging and Lifelong Health at the University of Victoria, explained that at most, only 2,000 more people will have access to a family doctor with the addition of one doctor and three nurses.
“When you look at the number of people that currently are without proper access to primary care, that new clinic is a little drop in an ocean of needs,” he said.
The announcement the new centre comes after three clinics closed its doors in the Greater Victoria area.
When Eagle Creek Medical Clinic announced it would also be closing the walk-in clinic, it provided an estimate that there are more than 100,000 people in the CRD without a family doctor.
“Can we get literally tens of thousands of people in this region in touch with a family physician? Currently, it’s very difficult to get one. We all know that. And I think this is part of the solution,” said Fleming.
The expansion will add more registered nurses and other allied health providers to the team later this year.
“We are thrilled that Luther Court Society is already starting the work to connect people in Victoria with health-care services they need in preparation for the completion of the community health centre’s renovation,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “As the society adds a community health centre to its existing services, residents will have one more place to go to get the everyday health care they need closer to home.”
Once the centre opens in its main location, an addition of approximately nine full-time equivalent clinical healthcare providers will be recruited to join Luther Court’s existing staff to provide comprehensive primary care services with an emphasis on seniors and people living with mental health and substance-use conditions.
Contandriopoulos questioned if the criteria to access the clinic is too narrow.
“You don’t want the government to invest money in models that are actually too narrow in who can get access,” he said.
The expanded team will include family physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, a licensed practical nurse, a mental-health and substance-use worker, a community health outreach worker, a dietitian and an occupational therapist.
In addition, approximately six full-time equivalent support staff, including a primary healthcare director, will assist the clinical care team to offer health promotion and wellness services.
“It’s the team-based medicine approach. And I think it’s really listening to what family physicians want in terms of their work-life balance,” said Fleming.
While he said it’s good news to see a new clinic opening up, Contandriopoulos said it’s simply not enough.
“Currently, the primary care model in B.C. is really crashing down. And it’s coming down fast,” he said.
“It’s undermined by big corporations like TELUS, it’s undermined by the lack of support the province gave to its family doctors, it’s undermined by the lack of interest in interprofessional work,” he continued.
The B.C. government will provide more than $2.2 million in operating budget once the centre reaches full capacity.
The Province also provided one-time funding of more than $2.1 million for the renovation costs.
The centre will begin by opening Monday to Thursday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Friday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Saturday 8 a.m. to 12 p.m.
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