B.C. Finance Minister Carole James presents her third budget, Feb. 18. (Black Press Media file photo)

COLUMN: Return to team health care clinics improves community health

Carole James is MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill

Carole James

MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill

The current COVID-19 pandemic has made it more apparent than ever how important access to quality health care services is for us and our families.

James Bay has been my home for as long as I can remember. I grew up here, I raised my kids here and I continue to live and spend time with my family on this beautiful land.

When I became pregnant with my daughter back in the late 1970s, I received care at the James Bay community clinic. Activists had pulled together to form an innovative style of care that brought together a range of different health care professionals that looked at the person as a whole.

I was fortunate to have healthy kids that didn’t always require doctor appointments; rather their aches, sprains, and ear infections were more often tended to by a nurse practitioner. It was a practical and efficient way to receive care that didn’t overburden the system.

But during the past decade this model of care was lost, and the community shifted back to a more traditional doctor-patient delivery model. In communities across the province walk-in clinics were regularly full, and people had to resort to visiting emergency departments just to be seen. This resulted in long wait times and represented a high cost to the health care system.

RELATED: Victoria’s first urgent primary health clinic set to open in James Bay

Our government is doing things differently and the changes we are making have already improved the health care system that British Columbians depend on. The James Bay Urgent Primary Care Centre (UPCC) is the latest to open of 16 urgent and primary care centres announced under our government’s primary care strategy, and will help thousands in our community who don’t have a family doctor.

The opening of the James Bay UPCC represents a return to innovative team-based care that gets people the help they need while remaining cost effective for our province.

UPCCs offer evening and weekend hours for both primary care (day-to-day health care needs) and non-emergency urgent care (like infections, sprains, minor cuts and burns) while taking a team-based care approach with clinical teams comprised of general practitioners, nurse practitioners, physiotherapists, and other health-care professionals. This approach means more people in our community will get the health care they need, when they need it.

Over the past two months people have approached me whether I’m out grocery shopping or on my daily walks, with questions about when the James Bay UPCC is going to open. This week represents a momentous time for our community. In many ways I feel like we are returning to our roots, a return to a model that worked well for us in the past. And it could not come at a more important time.

Finally we have a government that is ready to prioritize a style of care that puts people first. This is an important step for my community of James Bay and Victoria, and it is just one way we are working hard to make life better for people. We are going to continue making improvements to the services people count on here and in every community across B.C.

Carole James is MLA for Victoria-Beacon Hill

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