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New Parksville health centre will meet needs of most people: VIHA

Dr. Bob Burns, executive medical director for population and family health for the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA), says the Oceanside Health Centre taking shape in Parksville will serve all but four patients — those four, on average each night, who travel to emergency rooms.

Burns explained to Parksville city council this week that VIHA is excited about the project, not because of the building, but because of the vision and new form of health care it will help provide.

He said it will be a hub or nexus for health care in the region and "slightly tweak the model of health care," with the single location providing a single point of entry and access to integrated care teams.

Councilor Sue Powell asked for more details on what the integrated teams will be.

Burns said that unlike the current model, where health care professionals work in isolation, a team of professionals will be focused on the patient, with a single person co-ordinating service on the spot, helping make appointments and tracking progress.

Powell then asked for a definition of "urgent care," which proponents boast the facility will address, with limited emergency care.

"It really is a hard concept to grasp," Burns said, explaining it is when they "require something to be done now, but not requiring all the hospital services."

He said they are still working out the details with BC Ambulance, but by the time it opens paramedics will be clear on when to stop in Parksville or go directly to the nearest full hospital.

During question period, local New Democratic Party candidate Barry Avis asked from the audience what people should do with specific health complaints, like chest pain.

"The sooner they can get definitive care the better," Burns said, explaining that with more serious issues you want to be in the biggest hospital as fast as possible to have all the services available.

"What if you had a very bad cut?" Avis continued.

"That's a hard one," Burns admitted, suggesting that if it was bad enough you might want to stop to have it stabilized, but then you'd probably be sent to Nanaimo, he said, adding, "I hope there'll be enough community education going on," for people to make those choices.

Burns added that since a lot of people go to emergency who don't need to, the Parksville facility will help keep people out of the hospital and closer to home.

He said VIHA studies show an average of just four people a night from Oceanside go to emergency rooms in neighboring hospitals during the time the new facility will be closed, so the facility will be able to help most people.

VIHA general manager of special projects Rudi van den Broek explained that they will be coming back to council in the coming months to apply to close a roadway dedication through the property and combining two properties to create a single "campus of care," along with the neighbouring Trillium Lodge.

Councillor Marc Lefebvre, who referred more than once to "the controversy around the project," asked if there was any plan to share beds, specifically for palliative care, with Trillium.

Burns said VIHA is working on a plan to improve palliative care across the Island but its still in progress and he didn't know anything about the results.

Asked if there will be enough physicians in the area to staff the facility Burns said "we've been relatively successful in recruiting to this part of the Island so we don't expect to have any trouble."

There is a dedicated VIHA webpage with information and updates about the project including floor plans at www.viha.ca/about_viha/building_for_health/oceanside.htm.

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