North Shore's lone walk-in clinic to close amid rising patient numbers

By Chad Klassen
March 6, 2017 - 6:30pm Updated: April 27, 2017 - 5:27pm

KAMLOOPS — The healthcare crisis in Kamloops has taken another hit with the announcement the only walk-in clinic on the North Shore will be closing at the end of the month.

While many patients on the north side of town who rely on the clinic are not happy with the decision, management at the Norkam Healthcare Centre says staff are overwhelmed by the sheer number of patients coming through the doors.

WATCH: Full report by Chad Klassen

"In the last four years, with over 13 doctors closing their family practices, you've now gone from what should be a walk-in clinic and forced into the role of a primary care centre for many people in the community, especially the North Shore," said Norkam Healthcare Centre manager Patty Aldrich. 

While the centre will still serve as a family practice, the walk-in clinic will be slowly phased out --- not accepting any more walk-ins beyond march. 

"This decision was based on the medical director, and the fact that we have a panel in a walk-in of over 19,000 patients, at what point is there a tipping point?" said Aldridge. "Is it really a walk-in when half of your crowd in the morning gets appointments but the other half of the appointments are for recall."

The opening of the new North Shore Health Science Centre next door, where patients with chronic diseases can be seen by a doctor or nurse practitioner on a more regular basis, played a role in the decision to close the walk-in clinic. 

"We're reaching out to Dr. Vlahos and her team to see if there's anything the Ministry can do to help keep this valuable service going," said Health Minister Terry Lake. "Walk-in clinics provide valuable intermittent care, and while we're building up capacity in the primary health care system with our two clinics on the North Shore, we want to see if we can keep this service."

Aldrich responded, "who's responsibility is it to provide medical care for patients? That is the Ministry of Health, so it falls on them. On the positive, what they've done for the City of Kamloops just recently is opened up these primary care centres. We feel this is the direction that patients who need ongoing care should be."

Aldrich credits Lake with helping bring the centres to the north shore, but she says overflow at the walk-in clinic, in addition to the family practice, is just too much for staff. 

"Will it relieve pressure on the director of this clinic? Of course it will. But this pressure is full-on for all the patients. They're feeling the pressure most. Other walk-in clinics are going to be managing the extra load that comes their way. The RIH emergency room is going to feel the brunt of all these patients who no longer can come through this walk-in clinic."

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