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General News · 25th February 2024
Dear Community,
Over the last 6 months, we have had to balance the progress we have been making towards sustainable primary care on Cortes, with being very transparent and keeping the community informed about the difficulties we have been facing. Initially, we did need to tell you that the current physician group was leaving as of March 31 and we weren’t sure who would replace them; however, we have never announced that we would be closing our doors. We are sorry for the stress this uncertainty has caused. We have felt that the community prefers to have the whole picture presented. The Cortes Health Care Centre will remain open as usual for the foreseeable future.

The CCHA has continued to meet with Island Health, the Primary Care Network, and Dr McIntyre, to find solutions to maintaining continuous primary care services in our community.  We are happy to announce that a plan to cover at least the next year is in place.  

We are expecting that Dr’s McKeown, Foggin and Bauer will be signing a contract for the medical practice with Island Health by the end of February. We will continue to see these three physicians rotating through the clinic, as well as different locum physicians, much the same as we have over the last few years. We have been told that the payment to rural locums has been increased, removing the discrepancy between urban and rural payments. Hopefully this will mean that attracting locums to our community will get a bit easier.

The contract that the new physicians will have with Island Health is different than in the past; there will need to be a “host physician/Medical Director”, ensuring that all the medical and legal requirements of a practice are being met. Dr McIntyre will fill this role until July 31, 2024. At this point we are not sure who will take this role after July 31 but talks are in progress between Island Health and physicians.

As has happened a few times over the last couple of years, there will likely be some weeks that there is no physician physically at the clinic. During those weeks there may be a physician available for phone appointments for 1 or 2 days. The “host physician” will be checking lab and test results remotely, to ensure that nothing urgent is missed. They may also have some availability to confer with the RN in the clinic about urgent issues and provide the support they might need to practice to their full scope. The clinic will remain open for RN visits and phone calls as well as scheduling appointments, providing TAP forms and accessing the pharmacy. For urgent care you may be directed to call the ambulance or go to Campbell River, as if it were a weekend.

RN’s Isabelle and Murray have advanced certification to practice in remote locations. Their scope of practice includes treatment for minor common ailments (such as UTI, sore throat, cellulitis, etc). They can also prescribe oral birth control, do STI testing, and Isabelle can perform PAP screenings. All the nurses can provide a wide range of adult vaccinations.

To ensure physicians have accommodations, the CCHA will be taking on the administration of physician housing; we are in discussions with them and Island Health on this. The CCHA will also be taking on more responsibility related to the administration of non-medical aspects of the primary care practice.

We have received funding from the Ministry of Health to hire a project manager, who will be tasked with assessing the feasibility of a Community Health Centre model for primary care in the Discovery Islands region. This project is at a very early stage and we are working closely with the Quadra Medical Society, the Primary Care Network, and the BC Association of Community Health Centres. We will be keeping you informed as we learn more about the implications, feasibility, and suitability of this. The end result should be more efficient, stable, and sustainable health service on our island. A major goal in using a more regional approach is to help relieve physicians of the administrative burden of operating a practice in a remote location.
In summary, we have a plan in place to ensure that our clinic will continue to have physicians available to provide patient care in the foreseeable future. We will continue to update the community about changes and progress.