It’s been three months since the a new urgent and primary care centre opened at the Castlegar and District Community Health Centre and the centre’s medical director says things are going well.
Local primary care physician Dr. David Larocque has been appointed as the centre’s director. Larocque is well known in Castlegar, having treated patients here for about 20 years.
The centre is still ramping up its operations, but Larocque hopes to have all of the staff positions filled and all of the centre’s operations running by the end of the year.
The urgent and primary care centre model is new to the area. It serves several purposes, but the main one is to reroute patients from the emergency room who can be better treated at the centre, freeing up doctors and beds in the ER and improving patient care for all involved.
“The best thing about it is that it is actually putting services back into the hospital that were taken away many years ago,” said Larocque, referring to some of the services that will be offered through the care centre.
There is already a nurse and social worker at the centre whenever the doors are open, and a physiotherapist and additional social workers will be added before long.
“In our emergency room, for years, we have been really operating at a bare bones level,” said Larocque. “It is pretty stressful for us. We are having to do everything that comes into the emergency room.”
He says that includes things such as IV medications, phlebotomy, infusions, stitch removal and cast removal. Those things can now be done by a nurse in the urgent and primary care centre. Things like mental health or addiction crises can now be addressed by the social worker.
“It’s a rounding out of services that are now available in an urgent manner,” explained Larocque. “It’s for things that need to be taken care of today.”
Larocque says the urgent and primary care centre has taken a lot of pressure off the ER nursing staff, enabling them to take care of the true emergencies.
He stresses the care centre is not meant to be a walk-in clinic for patients who don’t want to wait until they can get an appointment with their primary care provider. The goal is to provide urgent services for things that can’t wait — it’s not for a cough or cold.
Larocque says the model of care delivery serves patients better by having non-physician staff such as nurses, therapists and social workers provide care for things that aren’t a physician’s specialty. However, there is always a physician available when needed. The care centre is also being used by physicians for outpatient procedures such as bladder scans, mole removals, abscess draining and vasectomies — without the chaos of the emergency room.
“It’s an extra service for the entire community — helping provide better service, better access and more robust care,” said Larocque.
Another perk — extra staff at the health centre may come in handy in a worst-case scenario.
“We still get disasters here — we get trauma, and extremely sick patients,” said Larocque. “We will have an extra pair of hands — just in case.”
Larocque says he sees the care centre not only improving care for Castlegar’s residents, but improving things for Castlegar’s medical professionals as well.
The Castlegar care centre is open the same hours as the ER — seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.