Health Minister Terry Lake today announced a four-point action plan to address patient access to primary health care in the community by leveraging multiple health professional resources.
Primary care is typically the first and main point of contact a patient has within the health-care system – usually care from a family doctor or nurse practitioner. The work in Kamloops is a collaborative effort among the Ministry of Health, Interior Health, Doctors of BC and Thompson Region Division of Family Practice to help connect more patients with primary care providers.
Action Plan for Kamloops primary care:
- Take immediate steps to increase capacity at walk-in clinics and existing doctors’ offices through the use of locum family doctors over the next six months
- Increase existing ongoing practice capacity through targeted recruitment of family doctors and a new “nurse-in-practice” program
- Establish and recruit practitioners to new “practice-ready” primary care centres, including placing internationally educated doctors from the Practice Ready Assessment program and recruiting nurse practitioners
- Set up specialized community care teams for the frail elderly, patients who are medically complex, and people with mental health and substance use concerns
Under the plan, immediate steps are being taken to initiate a temporary locum program in Kamloops to address urgent access needs in the short term. Locums are doctors who work in a practice temporarily, such as for vacation coverage. The ministry is working with the division and Health Match BC to recruit several locum doctors to existing Kamloops clinics to provide better access for patients.
To establish continued patient access to primary care in the community, the second initiative under the action plan will see added support for division recruitment efforts. The division has taken a strong leadership role to enhance existing practices and design sustainable integrated team-based practice models to help retain current doctors and recruit new doctors to Kamloops and surrounding communities. A number of recruitment strategies are currently underway, including a targeted recruitment campaign in partnership with Health Match BC for additional family doctors in existing practices.
The ministry and Health Match BC are now also working with the division to recruit nurse practitioners and nurses to existing practices to increase their capacity to accept new patients in the coming months. Currently, more than a dozen Kamloops practices have expressed interest in adding nurses.
The third stream of work will result in two new team-based primary care centres opening on the North Shore early in the new year, as providers are recruited. Located at the North Shore health centre on Tranquille Road and the Northills Centre, the two practices together will be able to accommodate five to seven practitioners. The ministry is working with interested physicians to recruit family doctors, nurse practitioners and nurses to the centres.
Two locations have been secured and renovations will start in the coming weeks. Completion of the construction, furnishing and equipping of the centres is expected by January 2017. The model will allow doctors and nurse practitioners to start working as soon as they are recruited in a fully set-up practice, sub-leasing the space from Interior Health.
The ministry also is exploring the option of adding a third primary care centre on the South Shore next year.
To further support recruitment efforts to the community, the ministry will be placing up to five family doctors in Kamloops through the Practice Ready Assessment - British Columbia program. Under the program, family doctors educated in other countries undergo a three-month assessment in a physician practice to determine if they are “practice-ready.” Doctors are then placed in underserved communities in B.C., and sign an agreement to work in that community for at least three years.
The fourth initiative under the action plan reflects the Ministry of Health strategic direction to better integrate primary and community care services and supports for more vulnerable patients. Interior Health will relocate a number of staff to the North Shore to create two targeted specialized teams to support the frail elderly patients with complex medical needs, and patients with mental-health and substance-use concerns. These teams will work collaboratively with primary care providers to proactively support access to a full range of primary care services.
The specialized team for the frail elderly and patients with complex medical needs will provide services including case management, home support, community rehabilitation and social work services, as well as a new Seniors Health and Wellness Centre and diabetes, lung and heart health programs. Patients with mental-health and substance-use concerns will be supported by a dedicated team providing individualized care including counselling, case management and mental health outreach.
The ministry is working with Health Link BC to create a dedicated contact number for Kamloops residents who are looking for a family doctor. Residents who call the number will be placed on a waitlist to be connected to a primary care practice as added capacity becomes available. Residents who are frail elderly, have complex medical needs, or who have moderate to severe mental-health and substance-use concerns will be referred to Interior Health’s specialized care teams. That number will be operational by the end of October 2016.
Over the past few years, significant work has taken place to increase patient access to primary care in Kamloops. These additional plans for the community, with the focus and support of these partners, are expected to provide further, growing benefits for residents now and into the future as new and expanded teams are established.
Terry Lake, Minister of Health –
"As our population has grown and aged, it has put pressure on our physicians and created challenges for many residents in Kamloops in accessing a family doctor. We have been working very hard together in Kamloops to put innovative solutions in place to ensure better access to primary care services.”
Todd Stone, MLA for Kamloops-South Thompson –
“I look forward to welcoming more health care professionals to Kamloops. Adding more of these essential roles will ensure that residents receive quality health care service within the community.”
Dr. Chip Bantock, chair, Thompson Region Division of Family Practice –
“Family physicians are truly invested in finding innovative solutions to increase primary-care capacity in Kamloops in a resilient and sustainable way. This includes exploring improved ways of working with Interior Health services and expanding our practice team. I know from experience adding a nurse to my practice has reduced wait times for my patients and has given me opportunity to work as a team and to possibly expand in the future.”
Dr. Alan Ruddiman, president, Doctors of BC –
“Kamloops is not alone in its need to recruit physicians as this has become a provincial, national and international challenge. The Thompson Region Division of Family Practice is a leader in its community and is working hard to find meaningful solutions to improve primary care access for patients. This is an example of the important role that physicians play as community leaders and partners to bring about primary care changes that benefit our patients.”
Chris Mazurkewich, president and CEO, Interior Health –
“The creation of two new centres for Interior Health community-based services on the North Shore of Kamloops will bring care closer to where residents live. The sites will include teams of health-care professionals working together for seamless and streamlined service so patients can more easily access the care they need.”