IH touts fall opening for North Kamloops urgent-primary clinic, $1.5M downtown expansion

$5.4M for urgent care clinic

Interior Health is hoping to see a $5.4-million urgent and primary care centre open in North Kamloops later this year, while also eyeing a significant expansion at the existing facility in front of Royal Inland Hospital.

In 2018, IH opened the first-of-its-kind Urgent Primary Care and Learning Centre in the clinical services building where a team of health professionals serve those who might not have a family doctor.

Now the health authority has eyes on expansion, having secured a little more than $2.55 million for the projects from the Thompson Regional Hospital District in March.

The North Shore primary care centre will be set up in a leased location near a lab and diagnostic imaging centre the health authority has in the Northills Mall.

Sylvia Weir, IH chief financial officer, told Castanet Kamloops people can expect the Northills Mall location to open in the fall of this year. Weir said the health authority has leased the space for the next decade.

“It makes sense for us to have adjacent services so that people understand where we are on the North Shore and where to come to,” Weir told the board at its budget meeting on March 21.

IH expects 85,000 annual visits to new UPCC

The Northills Mall project includes a renovation and equipping the space to support improved patient access to primary care services.

IH pegs the project at $5.4 million, and requested $2.14 million from the regional hospital district, which approved shouldering just $1.98 million.

The new clinic's service model will be similar to the existing UPCC, providing urgent, episodic care for people needing non-emergency care who may or may not have their own doctor.

IH estimates the new facility will serve 85,000 patient visits annually — 231 in-person and virtual visits per day — once the clinic is operational.

Staffed at the site will be a physician, nurse practitioner, registered nurse, social worker, physiotherapist and Aboriginal patient navigator, according to IH.

Downtown UPCC hours won’t budge — yet

The UPCC along Columbia Street, meanwhile, will be expanding into vacant space that was once home to the ahhYaY Wellness Café.

The province approved expanding the team of health professionals at that location last year. Now that the new positions are filled, more space is needed, Dianne Kostachuk, IH director of business operations, told the hospital board.

She said the urgent primary care and learning centre sides of the downtown clinic are not able to keep up with demand. Expanding the facility will allow up to 30 more appointments per day, an increase from its current capacity of 105.

Last year, the UPCC added a full-time family practitioner to the learning centre and two more family practice residents to its team of four.

According to IH, the added staff is allowing the UPCC to take 3,000 people on, up from 1,500.

The expansion project will include purchasing more equipment to support the expanded space.

IH has the renovation budgeted at $1.55 million, and asked the TRHD for $618,000. The regional hospital district approved $572,390 of the requested funds.

Karen Cooper, executive director of clinical operations for IH West, told the board that any increase to the hours of operation at the downtown UPCC would be considered after the Northills Mall facility is up and running.

“Access to primary care is getting a huge lift in this community, so before we would look at expanded hours [at the UPCC] to even increase the visit volumes more, we would want to make sure we have the providers for the North Shore, because that project will be completed before this expansion,” Cooper said.

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