Doctors on board at Oceanside Health Centre

The Vancouver Island Health Authority says it has hired 11 physicians for urgent care duty at the Oceanside Health Centre (OHC).

That amount of doctors will allow VIHA to provide urgent care service at OHC as promised — 15 hours a day, 365 days a year — starting Sept. 16, said VIHA spokesperson Suzanne Germain.

These urgent care physicians won't be full-time at OHC. They work in other areas of VIHA like the emergency department at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

"They have other functions elsewhere," said Germain. "But they want to do this — they are interested in this model."

VIHA is also "in the process of making offers" to two primary care physicians, which means the Sept. 30 goal for the start of primary care at the OHC is still in reach, said Germain.

VIHA defines urgent care as "a brief encounter with health care service when an individual is ill and/or needs unexpected treatment to prevent admission to hospital and they are not able to be seen or accommodated by their own physician. Urgent care is for assessment and treatment of medical conditions that need same-day care, for example: asthma, simple fractures, lacerations, acute pain, shortness of breath, infections and allergic reactions."

It seems some members of the public believed urgent care was available at OHC right from its June 24 opening. Staff at the OHC had to call or an ambulance recently to get one person suffering trauma and another with a possibly serious heart problem to NRGH, said Germain.

“(Staff) did a quick assessment, then called 9-1-1,” said Germain, who also said the trauma case “could have been handled” at OHC had it been after Sept. 16 when urgent care physicians will be in place.

As for the primary care physicians, Germain said the OHC has already been fielding calls from Parksville Qualicum Beach residents who want to sign up for a family doctor at the OHC. Germain estimated there are 1,000 people in this region currently without a family doctor and she said the two being hired could handle that patient count.

VIHA will release information about how to get on the list of potential patients for these primary care physicians in mid-August, she said.

In other OHC news:

• Germain said the transition from providing services in many locations to one is “going well and on target,” although the closure of Parksville X-Ray (purchased by VIHA) for three weeks before the OHC opened caused a backlog in the medical imaging department at the OHC.

• The Alberni Highway entrance to the facility should be open to the public by mid-August and the regional transit authority has put a bus stop closer to the facility’s Despard Avenue entrance.

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