‘Our primary care strategy and the networks are providing a real solution to people so they can get the care they need, closer to home’, said BC Health Minister Adrian Dix
According to information released on Tuesday, by the BC Ministry of Health, people in British Columbia will soon have more options to get quality team-based health care closer to home.
Approximately 660 new full-time equivalent health professionals will be part of 22 primary care networks coming soon throughout the province.
“As part of our primary care strategy, we’re putting networks of health professionals at the centre of our primary care transformation, making life better for everyone in BC,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “By adding 22 more primary care networks to the 17 already announced, more people will benefit from a seamless patient-centred experience that meets their unique health needs.”
Government will provide approximately $110 million in annual funding to the primary care networks once they are fully established.
The team of health-care providers will include family physicians, nurse practitioners and health-care professionals, ranging from registered nurses, traditional wellness co-ordinators and cultural safety facilitators to allied health-care professionals, social workers and clinical pharmacists.
I asked what kind of mix there will be with these new 660* medical professionals (doctors, nurse practitioners, and from the other healthcare professionals)? A ministry spokesperson responded by stating:
In addition to family physicians and nurse practitioners, new positions include registered nurses, allied health professionals, social workers and Indigenous coordinators. Local Elders will be supported to provide traditional wellness and peer support, as champions in their communities.
These new networks will see community partners, local health-care providers and Indigenous partners work together to ensure patients have access to a full range of team-based primary care services, from maternity to end of life, for all of their day-to-day health-care needs. In addition, they have been designed to address primary care priorities of individual communities such as:
- providing better access to chronic disease and chronic pain management;
- improving access to mental-health and substance-use services;
- culturally safe and appropriate care for Indigenous peoples;
- helping to co-ordinate services for vulnerable people with complex health issues; and
- providing comprehensive services for people living in poverty.
For people and families, it means getting faster, better access to their primary care team or provider, including evenings and weekends, as well as being connected to appropriate services and supports in the community.
The primary care networks will be in Comox, southern Vancouver Island, Cowichan, Oceanside, White Rock/South Surrey, Chilliwack/Fraser rural, Mission, Central Okanagan, Central Interior rural, Kootenay Boundary, East Kootenay and Vancouver.
Over the next three to four years, across all networks, the team of health-care providers will see hundreds of thousands of patient visits annually.
And where these clinics will be located, I asked? To which I was told that in over next three years Adrian’s Dix’s health ministry aims to have the primary care networks in 70% of BC communities.
“About 17% of people in British Columbia report not having a primary care provider. This means that these people often have to wait long hours in walk-in clinics or at their local emergency departments to get the care they need. Our primary care strategy and the networks are providing a real solution to people so they can get the care they need, closer to home,” Dix said.
Indigenous partners, including community leaders, have been involved in the development of primary care networks, from planning to governance, and advise on the implementation of primary care. Local Elders will be supported to offer traditional knowledge, cultural support, and leadership to their communities. For Indigenous peoples, this will mean more co-ordinated and culturally safe and appropriate primary care support such as traditional healers and Indigenous navigators.
These new networks are expected to help connect approximately 300,000 people to a local primary care team or provider, while providing team-based and culturally safe care to BC residents.
I asked if there wouldn’t be concerns in finding the numbers of health care professionals which would be needed to staff these new clinics – and if it wouldn’t cause problems for existing health care practices and clinics in the province – for example getting new staff to replace those who will be retiring, on medical or maternity leaves, or for other reasons?
“ ... with respect to nurse practitioners, for example, we have drastically increased the number of practitioners we train in BC, and we are doing that now. Obviously, all of those people are already nurses and are seeking an advanced degree to be nurse practitioners.
From my perspective, that's a big challenge, and that's why a new nursing program in Fort St John, to build out there, new health sciences programs in Prince George, and we're building out. And we need to, obviously, train more people. And that's a significant part in every part of health care.
... the health human resources question is an important question, and there are some challenges ... I'm confident, as we build out primary care networks that we're going to attract the staff we need, both doctors and nurse practitioners, but also other staff/people ... that are defined by communities as being needed.
These supports, building out teams and supports through primary care networks are attractive to bringing primary physicians, to bringing family doctors to communities. These proposals ... were developed with the cooperation and support of divisions of family practice ... they said what the community needed and what combination of services and additions were important in their communities and they worked with us to come to a final agreement on what we would be funding and going forward with ...”
British Columbia currently has 39 primary care networks underway, including 12 in Vancouver Coastal, 14 in Fraser Health, five in Island Health, five in Interior Health and one in Northern Health, with more coming.
* the following is information into which health regions the 660 new medical professionals be located:
- Central Okanagan: https://news.gov.bc.ca/23103
- Vancouver: https://news.gov.bc.ca/23102
- Central Interior: https://news.gov.bc.ca/23101
- Comox Valley: https://news.gov.bc.ca/23100
- White Rock and South Surrey: https://news.gov.bc.ca/23099
- Cowichan: https://news.gov.bc.ca/23088
- Mission: https://news.gov.bc.ca/23098
- Saanich Peninsula, western communities: https://news.gov.bc.ca/23095
- Oceanside: https://news.gov.bc.ca/23091
- Chilliwack, surrounding areas: https://news.gov.bc.ca/23092
- East Kootenay: https://news.gov.bc.ca/23090