Consistency, stability, and having a primary care physician are three things area residents have said they want from health care in the community, and Interior Health (IH) says that changes coming soon to Ashcroft aim to provide all three, with a clinic open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. daily.
“Our goal is that by the end of this year we’ll have these three things,” says Carl Meadows, IH West Executive Director of Clinical Operations for the Thompson-Cariboo. His words come less than a week after an Ashcroft resident went into cardiac arrest on July 17; an ambulance took 25 minutes to arrive, and the Ashcroft emergency department was closed due to limited physician availability.
“Through consultation with the community we’ve heard that people want consistency of service. They don’t want on again, off again; they want to know that health service opens at one time and closes at another, seven days a week,” says Meadows.
“They want stability in BC Emergency Health Services, and we work closely with BC Ambulance every day to make sure we have the right clients transferred to a higher of level of care in a timely manner.
”Our third pillar, primary care, is patient attachment. Some of our GPs are leaving, and young physicians don’t want to run a business and pay overhead. That’s an older model of primary care. The new model for Ashcroft is attaching patients to a primary care clinic, not a physician. If someone goes in without a primary care physician they might see one person one week and someone else the next, but the most important things is having a circle of care around one patient.
“Right now, GPs are in the position of being small business people, and that means we have to make this better. The current fee-for-service model means that physicians are paid for the client in front of them, and if you’re not attached to a GP you go to emergency, then leave. You’re still not attached. The difference with team-based care is that the team knows you.”
Meadows says that the new model will still see responsive ambulance care, and patients will be attached to a primary care team of nurses and doctors. There will also be consistency around hours and the services provided.
“Our vision for Ashcroft is that you’re attached to a team, and that avoids the tumult when your physician leaves.”
The Urgent and Primary Care Centre (UPCC) planned for Ashcroft has a tentative start date of late September, at around the time that one of the current physicians, Dr. Adeosun, is leaving. Another physician is starting at the same time, with a third due in spring 2023, and locums will also be available. The clinic would be open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., seven days a week, for scheduled appointments and emergency cases, and Meadows says that Dr. Adeosun’s patients will be able to sign up with the clinic.
He adds that the current situation, which has seen emergency departments in Ashcroft, Clearwater, 100 Mile, and other communities closed at short notice due to lack of staff, is one that people are working hard to avoid.
“Managers and teams are trying to find staff. No one wants to pull the rip cord and close a site. We work all day to fill gaps, but sometimes we’re one sick call away from trouble in terms of hours of operation and being open. We’re trying our best to keep sites open, because it’s challenging for citizens wondering ‘Are you open or closed today?’”
Meadows says that IH wants to get the service right for the citizens of Ashcroft and the surrounding area.
“Ashcroft will have consistency of hours and service, and team-based care around attachment. We’ve had success in other UPCCs, and we’ll refine it to attract people. Our focus is around stability for the community, and giving great care in a team-based care model. I’m convinced we have a great plan, and I’m very optimistic for Ashcroft.”