New revamped DTES clinic aims to take load off ER
Officials say the clinic is designed to make it easier for marginalized people to access care
Vancouver Coastal Health has revamped the way it offers services at three Downtown Eastside clinics.
"Clients will no longer have to travel to multiple sites to address their needs," said Bonnie Wilson, the health authority's director of inner city and mental health and substance use.
Starting Tuesday Jan. 23, residents will be able to see a physician, a counsellor or a social worker under one roof.
Wilson said the centre is designed to make it easier for marginalized people to access care since, so many services will be offered in the same building.
The Heatley Community Health Centre at 330 Heatley Ave. only provided mental health services but will now offer "wraparound" services.
The newly unveiled facility has exams rooms, a talking room, and a supervised injection site — which will be up and running once it receives approval from Health Canada.
The centre will also focus on Indigenous health.
It has a sacred space that has proper venting to allow for smudging ceremonies and stores traditional medicine.
Elders will also be part of the care model.
"They are our indigenous population's opportunity to access culturally safe care and also cultural practices," said Leslie Bonshor, the executive advisor of Aboriginal Health at VCH.
The two other existing facilities on Pender and Powell also underwent minor renovations. They will begin offering a similar integrated model and all three clinics have extended their hours.
"These sites will be open 12-hours-a-day and the Downtown Community Health Centre [on Powell Street] ] will be open on weekends. Additionally, we will have GPs and nurse practitioners available 24/7 on call," said Wilson.
Wilson expects given the extended hours and integrated teams, they will have capacity to handle an additional 3,000 patients each year.
Currently, the three clinics see a total of 6,000 patients annually.
The health authority also anticipates that the new system will relieve some of the pressures and wait times at emergency departments.
"By being open later in the evening and by having on-call capability, we're definitely hoping that our clients use that as a service instead of going into the E.D.," said Wilson.
Dr. Michael Norbury, the medical director of primary care with Vancouver Coastal Health, said the new system will allow the emergency room physician to contact the nurse practitioner to review the patient's chart.
"Sometimes that allows a safer and more obvious decision to be made overnight, and then the integrated care team can see the client again the following morning, rather than working in silo," said Dr. Norbury.