British Columbia

Urgent care centres yet to open, but larger health-care plan coming soon, says B.C. health minister

Opening urgent family care centres to ease long waits at walk-in clinics and emergency rooms was one of the promises the NDP made during the 2017 campaign.

More nurse practitioner positions part of shift toward team-based health care

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix speaks in Vancouver on Nov. 20, 2017. (Michael McArthur/CBC)

It's been just over a year since the provincial election and CBC News has tracked every promise the NDP made during the campaign.

Opening urgent family care centres to ease long waits at walk-in clinics and emergency rooms was one of those promises.

During the 2017 campaign, the party outlined a plan for centres that would bring together doctors and other health-care professionals such as nurses, nurse practitioners, mental health workers and other front-line workers.

No such centres have opened. But Health Minister Adrian Dix says more details are coming soon.

"We have been doing the work, working with family practice doctors, working with health sciences professionals, working with nurse practitioners and nurses and developing a plan that I think will be effective," he said.

Some 700,000 people in B.C. have no access to a family doctor, a number that has been growing in recent years.

Team-based care

Urgent care centres could help people receive more timely treatment, said Dr. Trina Larsen Soles, the president of Doctors of B.C.

But they would also need to fit into a larger network of primary and follow-up care for patients or the government risks just creating "mini emergency rooms", she said.

"I'd love to see this done yesterday because we have patients that we really want to have access to care, but I think if we want a long-term solution to this, we have to do it right," she said.

The health minister said he's also working on a larger plan for team-based health care across the province. Details on a primary care plan are expected shortly.

Nurse practitioner positions

On Wednesday, Dix announced B.C. will add 200 more nurse practitioner positions as part of that shift toward team-based health care.

The province has earmarked approximately $115 million over three years to employ nurse practitioners in primary care settings throughout B.C.

"NPs are a viable, patient-centred solution to improving access, but we know that compared to other jurisdictions, B.C. has not made the best use of NPs," he said in a statement.

Priority will be given to regions with the highest need for access to primary care, the ministry said.