New after-hours primary-care clinic opens on Saanich Peninsula, as nearby ER still closed overnight

New after-hours primary-care clinic opens on Saanich Peninsula, as nearby ER still closed overnight

A new after-hours primary-care clinic is now open on the Saanich Peninsula, where a nearby emergency department remains closed overnight due to a staff shortage.

The clinic officially opened Monday, April 8, and offers services by appointment only Monday to Friday from 5 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays, according to the B.C. government in an announcement.

“While this is not a walk-in service, the clinic offers same-day appointments whenever possible,” said the province in a news release Monday.

It says phone lines will open for same-day booking at 4:30 p.m. on weekdays and at 8:30 a.m. on Saturdays, with doctors, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, an office coordinator and medical office assistants on-site once fully staffed.

“We only have physicians, nurses and medical office assistants at this point, and we hope to recruit nurse practitioners going forward,” Sarah Crawford-Bohl, Island Health’s executive director of clinical service delivery told CHEK News.

“If you know of any nurse practitioners, send them our way. We’d like to recruit them.”

The opening follows the closure of Shoreline Medical’s walk-in clinics in Sidney and Brentwood Bay, which had 17,000 patients attached. They closed on March 31, and at the time Shoreline Medical said Island Health would be opening a new one.

“Alas, during COVID, several walk-in clinics in our area closed their doors, overwhelmed by the challenges of meeting needs of patients without a family doctor seeking care,” stated a January notice from Shoreline Medical.

Health Minister Adrian Dix says the new clinic will benefit people living on the peninsula and increase access to primary health-care services after-hours, helping to reduce demand on ERs and bring “more care options closer to home.”

The province says the clinic services are in the Peninsula Health Unit, located at 2170 Mt. Newton X Rd., next to Saanich Peninsula Hospital in Saanichton.

A post on Island Health’s website says the hospital’s ER “remains on temporary overnight closure from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.” During these closures, paramedics are diverted to other hospitals, such as Royal Jubilee and Victoria General.

ER closure extended

The health authority first announced the closure last July, saying the ER would shutter overnight for two months. It said this was due to limited staff ability, and that it would be focusing its staffing during the busier daytime and early evening hours.

Island Health then announced an extension of these closures on Sept. 4.

“We don’t have enough physicians to maintain 24/7 operations,” Marko Peljhan, vice president of clinical services for the central/south Island said at the time.

“We’re still recruiting emergency department physicians, physicians that have that specialty,” Crawford-Bohl said Monday.

“Until we’re really able to recruit more physicians, we continue to be in that position…but we hope to change that in the near future.”

READ PREVIOUS: Overnight closures at Saanich Peninsula Hospital emergency department to continue

The province says the new after-hours primary-care clinic is for people who need non-emergency medical care for ailments like minor injuries, high fever and cough.

“What I see from people I work with is that it can be difficult to take time off to access a primary care provider during those nine-to-five hours, the hours you’re normally working,” said Crawford-Bohl.

“This does provide a great opportunity for people who work within those hours to access care outside of the work day.”

People can book by calling 250-544-2445.

“Shoreline Medical Society is pleased to continue working with Island Health, the Saanich Peninsula Primary Care Network and the Ministry of Health to help establish Island Health’s new after-hours primary care clinic,” said Heather Edward, executive director of Shoreline Medical in the release.

People requiring immediate medical care or experiencing a health crisis, serious illness or emergency should call 911 or proceed to the nearest ER, while those who are unsure can call 811 and speak with a nurse 24/7.

“We want to reserve our emergency departments for urgent and emergent access needs. So those things that would be considered life or limb,” added Crawford-Bohl.

-with files from CHEK’s Laura Brougham, Kori Sidaway

Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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