It's been a long time coming, but changes are in store for the Victorian Community Health Centre (VCHC) in Kaslo, with plans to increase primary care services to seven days a week.
Beginning in April, the changes will give residents the option to see a physician on Saturday and Sunday, statutory holidays however will remain unavailable.
Aside from those looking to schedule appointments, blocks will be left open for people who have non-urgent, but unforeseen medical needs on those days as well.
“Emergency department hours at the health centre will remain Monday to Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Kaslo residents who need emergency care outside regular hours should call 9-1-1. If you are unsure if you require urgent medical care, call HealthLink BC at 8-1-1 (24 hour service), and a nurse can discuss your needs with you over the phone,” according to a press release from Interior Health.
A lack of available doctors in the rural areas of interior BC has some asking whether or not this would be an issue as the VCHC moves towards these new hours.
Even hospitals in large urban centres like Toronto and Vancouver struggle with staffing, and this issue is often much more dire in out of the way areas like Kaslo and similar communities.
“Recruitment of docs is a wide spread issue, specifically for rural communities,” said Aimee Watson Director, Area D, Regional District Central Kootenay.
"Doctors being able to do 24/7 is not necessarily related to their desire to live in the community, it has to do with what is their capacity to run a clinic and be on call for emergency.
"When the community only had two doctors, that meant that they were very limited to be able to leave or take time off.
Watson continued, saying: “When the community only had two doctors, that meant that they were very limited to be able to leave or take time off. They would be on call every second day. Now that IHA is splitting the two FTE between three docs, they can spread the schedules out and enable extended hours.
"Having three share two FTE is a more flexible schedule that has enabled the clinic to expand its hours.”
On the bright side, this decision is certainly a step in the right direction. Ensuring patients and residents will have access to medical care seven days a week is definitely a good thing.
“Expanded clinic hours is an increase in services, a step in the right direction,” Watson said.
"Those who work 9-5 Monday to Friday can now book appointments on the weekend as well. Issues that may need attention sooner rather then later can be treated instead of waiting, which can prevent an emergency."
However, as in the past, any serious injuries requiring immediate care with still be relegated to larger facilities in Nelson and Trail.
Watson said these new hours are aimed at people who work 9-5 on weekdays, so that they will be able to treat their issues before they snowball into something worse, but anybody seeking assistance for acute emergencies should call 911 and let the highly trained paramedics do their jobs.
There is still work to be done, but the new hours are a huge move forward for residents in the area who are often too busy with work and life’s many responsibilities to take a day off to go to the doctor.
Allowing them to see a physician on their days off drastically reduces the risk of an injury or illness becoming worse.
“We are not at ideal, but we are certainly heading in the right direction now that we have secured doctors. Our working relationship with IHA is positive and we will keep the discussions going with a focus on the ideal,” Watson said.