The new Rutland Urgent & Primary Care Centre has been open for a few weeks now, but some patients are unhappy with the service model.
A woman recently posted on the Kelowna Moms Facebook group about the experience her husband had when he took their son in because he had an earache for three days. They were told there was no doctor available and to come back later. When he returned, that’s when he learned it would be a virtual appointment with a physician.
“So, that wouldn’t work for diagnosing an ear infection. So they were sent away," the woman wrote.
"With all the news and hoopla lately about the new Rutland Urgent Care Centre… I guess I was expecting more. Has anyone else had a similar experience?” she asked.
Her post elicited a number of comments, including one woman who said she she had a similar experience and was told they hadn’t been able to find a doctor to hire. She suggested people contact their MLA to express their disappointment.
Castanet reached out to Interior Health for clarification on the staffing situation at the Rutland Urgent Primary Care Centre. We were told there is currently one on-site physician on staff.
“In addition to providing on-site physicians, RUPCC has incorporated a virtual care provider to offer two streams of service care, with a particular focus on advancing virtual care solutions. The introduction of this service is specifically designed to enhance the existing primary care system operated by IH, integrating virtual providers alongside in-person care providers at our clinics,” wrote Interior Health in an email.
The email pointed out that this "hybrid" virtual care model includes an in-person nurse who collaborates directly with the patient.
“This model supports clinics during staffing challenges and emergencies. Our goal is to make this service accessible to all IH primary care sites, ensuring widespread and effective healthcare delivery,” said IH, noting that the Rutland Urgent & Primary Care Centre is one of two IH sites trialing this program.
Using virtual care primary care providers, the plan is to have a physician and a nurse practitioner scheduled every day at the centre until Dec. 31, except for Sundays during the holiday period and Dec. 23-25.
“We are currently in the process of scheduling virtual primary care providers for 2024,” said the email.
The goal is for full staffing at the RUPCC by the spring, but IH also pointed to what it calls the challenges of the “national shortage of physicians”. It has hired a dedicated medical affairs recruiter exclusively committed to physician recruitment for urgent and primary care centres, held a recruitment information event in November, and has turned to social media platforms like LinkIn to bolster its efforts.
“Through these initiatives, we are striving to attract and secure skilled primary care providers who align with our commitment to delivering high-quality healthcare services to our community in Rutland.”
In the meantime, some of those who commented on the Kelowna Moms post questioned why an urgent care centre would even be opened if it can’t be staffed.