KAMLOOPS — In just a couple of weeks, the Summit Medical Clinic will be closing its doors for good — and one clinic director in Kamloops is voicing concerns about what that means for the community.
Dec. 15 is the day one of the only two walk-in clinics in Sahali will be closing. Dozens of patients are seen at the Summit Drive walk-in every day, with lines to secure an appointment forming early in the morning.
Justin Kopp is the president of the Kamloops Urgent Care Clinic, located in the Real Canadian Superstore building on Columbia Street. He says he didn't hear anything about the closure directly until roughly one month ago.
"We had received no communication that they were closing, so it was heard more through the grapevine that they were going to be closing," Kopp says. "It's sort of been left to us to prepare for this closure."
Kopp says he understands people are frustrated over the physician shortage — not just in Kamloops but across the province — and worries this closure will aggravate those feelings. His concern is about front staff at the clinic facing the brunt of that frustration.
"That's definitely a concern of ours," he says, noting that he anticipates larger lineups at his clinic once Summit closes. "We do have the ability to send some patients to the new (Urgent Primary) Care Centre that's at the hospital, but right now we only have the ability to refer two to three patients per day for that.
"I think the hope is that we'll have some increased ability to redirect patients to that location if we're having volumes exceeding our capacity, but at present we've had no communication in that regard."
Executive Director for Interior Health West Hospitals and Communities, David Matear, says working in partnership with the Kamloops Urgent Care Clinic is important to IH, and the clinic has been given the ability to give patients direct appointments to the Urgent Primary Care Centre at Royal Inland Hospital.
"What we're trying to do there is develop a linkage between the urgent care centres and family practices in order to be able to facilitate access for patients the appropriate level of care," Matear says.
It's not clear if the urgent care clinic will be given more time slots for direct appointments at the Urgent Primary Care Centre, but IH says clinics do have the option to call the centre in order to refer patients.
"We do recognize that the Summit Medical Clinic is closing. I can't speculate on the impact of that," Matear says. "We're fortunate to have, of course, another two options of walk-in clinics in Kamloops as well as the new Urgent Primary Care Centre."
Matear said the Thompson region Division of Family Practice partnered with Interior Health in October to communicate with local clinic owners and physicians the referral process for the Urgent Primary Care Centre.
Clinic owner Kopp says anywhere from 55 to 80 patients per day are seen by the two physicians at the walk-in, and he believes the most immediate thing that should happen is an increased volume of patients being able to be processed through the Urgent Primary Care Centre.
He notes that many days involve turning patients away who present at the clinic, and he fears that will worsen.
"There's a number of patients who see urgent care clinics and walk-in clinics as their sole primary providers. Even though that's not supposed to be the case, there's such a shortage of family physicians within the community that we end up being the de facto provider until they're able to receive that care," Kopp says.
"There are going to be a fair number of people who are getting their regular prescriptions and blood work down at the Summit clinic, who are no longer going to be able to receive that, and it's going to be very frustrating to have patients who have quite complex medical needs without any proper transition plan in place for them."
Matear says the limitations for referrals come from the hours of operations for the primary care centre, but hopes with adding more doctors that hours can be extended and the service can operate seven days a week.
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