KAMLOOPS — Local politicians, Interior Health officials, and community members came together Friday morning for the grand opening of the North Shore Health and Science Centre.
The centre, which is officially scheduled to open Monday, will provide integrated health services for people facing critical ailments.
Interior Health says it's the first step in seeing two clinics open on the North Shore that will eventually help to ease the doctor shortage in the city.
WATCH: Full report by Vanessa Ybarra
"This is the first in Interior Health, " said B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake. "The learnings from this will help establish interdisciplinary patient care homes throughout Interior Health and the province."
Health Minister Terry Lake and South-Thompson MLA Todd Stone got their first look at the centre Friday.
Its three exam rooms and numerous interview rooms will provide primary and continuing care for patients facing critical illnesses, from diabetes and respiratory problems right down to mental health conditions, in an effort to relieve local doctors case loads.
"Most of our rooms have video-conference capability," said Jason Giesbrecht with Interior Health. "The small and large group rooms are meant to provide education, facilitate discussions, and bring families together for family meetings."
Joanna Stevenson is from Langley.
She's one of four outside-hire nurse practitioners who has been brought in to run the 8 a.m. to 8 p.m, Monday to Saturday centre.
"I was really interested in the position because it's quite new to do integrated health," said Stevenson. "For us, we'll see everything, so we can assess, diagnosis, prescribe, and refer as necessary."
A respiratory therapist and social worker will also be on hand, with Lake adding several locums and up to five overseas physicians are also in the process of joining the team later this year.
Unlike other medical centers, the North Shore Health and Science Centre takes a team-based approach.
"Rather than having the patient see a diabetes clinician, then separately see a mental health clinician, we might bring that team together and provide a group assessment and group visit so the patient only has to tell their story once."
Ashcroft Wellness and Health Coalition interested in primary care facility
Members of the Ashcroft Wellness and Health Action Coalition were among those attending the unveiling.
The wellness coalition represents Ashcroft and six surrounding communities including Lillooet, Logan Lake, and Clinton.
Vice-Chair David Durksen believes the health initiative would help smaller communities who are often without physicians.
"We've been working for four years on trying to come to grips with what primary care would look like," said Durksen. "We still have a turnover of doctors and that means we often don't have continuity of care for our patients. Primary care would be an answer for that."
Durksen says his group would like to see a similar health and science centre in Ashcroft and Lillooet.
Along with physician referrals, the centre will accept residents seeking primary-care physicians through the province's 8-1-1 HealthLine.
With various services under one roof, Lake says its the first in many steps to addressing the cities doctor shortage.
"There's nothing that's going to solve the demand and access issue overnight," added Lake. "This is the beginning of the plan unfolding."
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