EDITORIAL: Befuddled by the OHC

The new Parksville facility is going through some growing pains, and not of them can be explained away by Island Health

There’s a level of confusion, and no shortage of frustration, for many people who enter the Oceanside Health Centre expecting treatment.

We have heard more than a few stories about wait times exceeding six hours for those who believe the urgent care clinic at the OHC is where they should be for their particular ailment.

Island Health, aka the Vancouver Island Health Authority, has tried to explain to residents what can, and cannot be treated at the OHC urgent care clinic. People either aren’t reading or haven’t been reached in a manner that gets the point across.

That stated, Island Health should not have expected anything different than what they are seeing one month after the opening of the urgent care clinic.

Until Sept. 16, Parksville Qualicum Beach residents who needed help after hours or didn’t have a family physician (which is more than 1,000 people), or couldn’t get in to see their family physician, went to the one and only walk-in clinic in the area, in downtown Parksville.

That clinic is now closed, at least as an off-hours walk-in clinic. So, if you need a prescription re-filled, or some stitches taken out, or you have a deep cut or your child has a nasty ear-ache, you would naturally believe the OHC is now the place to go.

Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. But it’s not like someone who is experiencing a level of trauma is going to check a menu online to see where he/she should go. If it’s not an ambulance call and/or something clearly serious enough (eg. heart attack) to warrant a trip to the emergency department at Nanaimo Regional Hospital, people are going to head to the OHC.

As well they should.

It is the provincial government that rolled out this health centre model as the latest and greatest in community health care. Initially, understanding a hospital was not a realistic answer for this community, we were in full support of this model and this facility.

It’s too early to call the OHC a failure, a model that just doesn’t work. Growing pains are to be expected. However, instead of managing expectations, Island Health needs to better understand we have no walk-in clinic any longer, and this new, $17 million, taxpayer-funded facility needs to provide, at the very least, what that clinic did in the past.

— Editorial by John Harding