Finding a family doctor in B.C. has become increasingly difficult as demand outpaces the number of physicians in any given region.
“Area residents who currently do not have a primary-care provider will benefit from increased access to same-day appointments for urgent needs and ongoing primary care.”
The facility at 101-437 Martin Street in Penticton will be home to a team of 14 full-time-equivalent clinical health-care professionals, including physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses and allied health professionals, according to the province.
The UPCC model helps divert low acuity emergency room visits.
The Ministry of Health estimates 43 per cent of visits to Penticton Regional Hospital’s emergency room in 2019-20 were in that category and could have been dealt with in an alternative setting like a UPCC.
Mental health and substance addiction patients will be a priority for care during the clinic’s initial set of hours – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday.
“Embedding mental health and addictions care into urgent and primary care centres across B.C. is vital to removing stigma and barriers to care,” said Mental Health and Addictions Minister Sheila Malcolmson.
The top five health conditions for Penticton residents include hypertension, osteoarthritis, episodic mood and anxiety disorders, asthma and osteoporosis, according to the ministry.
The clinic’s hours will be extended to 8 p.m., Monday to Thursday, and Saturday from noon until 6 p.m., beginning April 12.
“The opening of the Penticton UPCC provides one more avenue to lower the barriers for those seeking care in rural communities like ours,” said Roly Russell, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen.
UPCC staff around B.C. have been working on connecting patients with a permanent family doctor as well.
In Penticton, the Ministry of Health estimates about 7,200 people — or roughly 15 per cent of patients in the Penticton and Summerland region — do not have a regular primary-care provider.
There are now four centres in the Okanagan: Kelowna, Penticton, Vernon and West Kelowna.