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New medical clinic proposed near Kootenay Lake Hospital — IH gives thumbs up

Suzy Hamilton
By Suzy Hamilton
March 13th, 2014

A new medical clinic that could see more family doctors practicing in Nelson is being proposed across from Kootenay Lake Hospital.

Dr. Andre Kirsten has submitted plans to the city of Nelson in his rezoning application that would see a two story, 11,000 sq. ft. building replace his current downtown Ancron Medical Centre and walk in clinic on three lots across from the new emergency room entrance.

The building would house six doctors, a small coffee shop and outdoor hospitality area, a skin treatment clinic, a  family medical clinic, pharmacy and a  walk-in clinic in addition to  providing parking for 47 vehicles.

“The problem downtown is parking,” Kirsten said. “It’s very difficult for patient access. We have elderly patients who need to walk blocks to get here. And there is no disabled parking. This clinic across from the hospital lends itself ideally.”

Ancron currently has four practicing family doctors who see an average of 30 patients a day. The clinic is one of two walk-in medical clinics open seven days a week in Nelson. But there still remains a family doctor shortage, said Kirsten.

Kirsten sees his proposal as a way to help “fill the void we have” and possibly free up space at the hospital for other needs should specialists decide to move across the street—or traveling specialists  who need an office near the hospital out of which to practice.

The idea, Kirsten said, is to work with Interior Health to identify future needs.

“I’m thrilled that he is thinking about his clinic and how he can support the health needs of the community,” said Interior Health’s acute health care administrator Ingrid Hampf.

“I applaud the fact that he is looking at ways to support Interior Health.”

Hampf and Kirsten are now in more detailed discussions to fine tune the services of the clinic.

“There is certainly an identified need to increase our general practitioners in the area,” said Hampf.

While the clinic design is still in the early stages, Kirsten has already submitted the plans to the city for rezoning. He held an open house to discuss the plans with the public as part of the rezoning process on March 7. 

Kirsten said the meeting was “very positive.”

Currently the area is zoned for low density residential.

For his part, Dr. Kirsten said he is anxious to work with the neighbourhood to ensure residents’ privacy and views.

According to Daphne Powell in Nelson’s city planning department, the new Ancron plans will be reviewed by the Advisory Planning Committee on March 19.

There are two significant changes to be considered, said Powell. “One is a change in the Official Community Plan and the other is the zoning.” She said that the type of zoning needed to accommodate Kirsten’s proposal has yet to be determined.

“It is under staff review.”

Ultimately it will be for city council to decide whether or not Kirsten’s clinic can go ahead.

“On the surface of what I know,” said Nelson Mayor John Dooley, “and believe me, it’s preliminary,  it’s a good idea and something to explore. But at this point I can’t comment further, it’s not wise to jump to any conclusions.”

Kirsten said traffic flow, walkways for pedestrian safety and available parking seem to be the major considerations to be addressed.

“There is a dire need to get new doctors to Nelson,” he said. “I’m very excited about this and see it as a great opportunity to sustain the viability of Nelson.”

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