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After-hours health care clinics come to Qualicum Beach

Family physicians are creating after-hours walk-in clinics in Qualicum Beach in a pilot project for August they say will complement, not compete with, the operations of the Oceanside Health Centre.

The doctors say they are responding to survey results gathered in the spring and will determine whether the clinics continue past August after studying the data gathered during this pilot project.

"The community wanted some after-hours, walk-in access," said Elliot Freedman, a consultant working with the Oceanside Division of Family Practice.

"We think there's a demand for it and we think it will be full-up."

The clinics will be open Mondays (excluding the holiday Aug. 4) from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at Qualicum Medical Centre on Fern Road; Tuesdays from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. at the same location; Wednesdays from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at Beach Medical on Beach Road; Thursdays from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. at Primrose Medical Clinic on Second Avenue; and Fridays from 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. back at Beach Medical.

The physicians estimate they will be able to see 8-15 patients — tourists and residents alike — each day. Doctors say incidental, pressing — but non-life-threatening — medical issues may be brought to the after-hours clinics. These include things like earaches, fevers, removal of foreign bodies, heat stroke, hives and rashes, insect bites, lacerations, nausea, skin infection, sore throat, sprains and wound care.

What can’t be treated at the clinics include life-threatening or urgent medical conditions that should be treated and assessed at a hospital’s emergency department like suspected strokes or heart attacks, major trauma or injury, maternity issues, head injury with loss of consciousness, poisoning or overdose.

The pilot program is part of a province-wide initiative sponsored by the government of B.C. and the doctors of B.C. called A GP for Me (see www.agpforme.ca for more information). Freedman said that initiative covers more than the need to help people get a family doctor.

Some of the determining factors for these clinics continuing past August include the number of people who use the service and their origins (August was chosen because it is a month where the region gets a lot of tourist traffic) and how the physicians are able to cope, both with the workload and their ability to cover the overhead of the operations. He said the doctors are following this formula path for the clinics: plan-do-study-act, with the operation now in the ‘do’ stage.

“They are working a full day before (the clinics open),” said Freedman, who also said it was only Qualicum Beach-based physicians who offered to be part of the pilot project.

“We would like to continue it and expand it in small steps, and that could mean Parksville,” he said.

Before the $17 million Oceanside Health Centre and its Urgent Care Centre opened last year, a busy after-hours, walk-in clinic operated in downtown Parksville. It closed when the OHC opened and Freedman said their survey results showed people were confused and unhappy about what the Urgent Care Centre provided and how it operated.

“There was a lot of frustration about wait times, both at the doctors’ offices and the OHC Urgent Care Centre,” he said. “We thought maybe we could leverage the critical mass of the division (to help the situation).”

He said the doctors are following this formula path for the clinics: plan-do-study-act, with the operation now in the ‘do’ stage. He also admitted some might see the Urgent Care Centre and the clinics overlapping, but he insisted the planning was done with OHC officials involved.

“This is all very much collaborative,” he said. “In health improvement, small steps are best.”

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