No new walk-in patients beyond Friday at Norkam Healthcare Centre

By Chad Klassen
March 30, 2017 - 6:00pm

KAMLOOPS — Starting Friday, the Norkam Health Centre's walk-in clinic won't be accepting any new patients. 

Every day, the centre sees up to a dozen patients they've never seen before. Its patient lists is now past the 20,000 mark --- too much, the clients says, with such limited number of doctors. 

"There are no family doctors coming in in drove like we need them," said Patti Aldridge, manager of the Norkam Healthcare Centre. "So as far as what's changed in our reality, nothing really. Unfortunately, the fact remains this clinic, as a walk-in on the North Shore, will see its final patient at 5 p.m. on Friday."

Beyond Friday, the focus will turn to the family practice and giving patients with a family doctor more thorough care. But Norkam says it's not turning its back on walk-in patients needing follow-up. 

"Even if you were here two weeks ago, and the doctor ordered you an ultrasound you may not have done until June, and you're going to see a specialist in the fall, the results will come into this clinic," said Aldridge. "The medical director is still responsible for the continuity of care."

The Ministry of Health made a push, encouraging the walk-in clinic to remain open, hoping it could welcome new patients at least a couple times a week.

"It may be possible from my discussions with Dr. Vlahos, at some point to offer some limited walk-in capacity, which is always helpful."

But Aldridge says it's not as simple as that.

"Sure, we could keep it running two days a week, but that doesn't solve the problem of what's going on in Kamloops," she noted. "We need to push harder, we need to push at the higher-ups for the protection of the patients that require the care. Any place could be open a couple days a week, but they're not solving the problem."

The closure will affect patients like Stan Jiles, who has severe back pain and will eventually have to turn to the other three walk-ins --- all on the South Shore.

But Norkam says it's simple: with more doctors, the walk-in would stay be accepting new patients. 

"Would this walk-in clinic remain open if we didn't have such a doctor shortage?" Aldridged asked. "There's a good question. I think yes. If you have the amount of doctor that is required to manage people and their health, then a walk-in clinic can actually behave like a walk-in clinic."

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