British Columbia

B.C. unveils plans for 'renewed' primary health-care system

The NDP government’s promised urgent primary care centres that offer health care on evenings and weekends will become a reality within the next three years, according to the health ministry.

Primary care centres will offer health care on evenings and weekends

The provincial government unveiled its plans Thursday for B.C.'s primary health-care system. (Shutterstock)

The NDP government's promised urgent primary care centres that offer health care on evenings and weekends will become a reality within the next three years, according to the health ministry.

The health-care centres are part of the B.C. government's "renewed system" for primary health care, unveiled Thursday morning.

"The kind of care people need, and how it's delivered, has to change. It's no longer as simple as a doctor-patient relationship," Premier John Horgan said in a news release.

"In every community I visit, patients, doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals all say the same thing: 'Health care delivery must become more patient centred.'"

The plan shifts the focus for family health care to team-based care, bringing together general practitioners, nurse practitioners and nurses, according to a technical briefing from the ministry. The province has pledged funding for 200 new GPs and 200 new NPs, as well as 30 new university training spaces for NPs.

The urgent care centres are part of that focus, and will provide treatment for people with injuries and illnesses that need treatment within 24 hours, but do not require emergency care.

Ten centres are expected to be up and running in the next 12 months.

The plan also includes primary care networks that link family practices with urgent care centres and community health centres. The ministry says these networks will be created in 70 per cent of B.C. communities within the next three years, beginning in Burnaby, Comox, Prince George, Richmond and South Okanagan-Similkameen.

According to the province, more than 780,000 British Columbians don't have access to a family doctor, and even those who have primary care physicians aren't always able to get appointments when they need them. Just 44 per cent can get in to see the doctor on the same or next day.

Meanwhile, less than one-third of the province can see a doctor on weekends or evenings, and 36 per cent say their last visit to the ER was for something that could have been treated by their usual doctor, if they had been available.