Island Health acknowledges 'challenge' staffing Urgent and Primary Care Centres

Victoria's new urgent and primary care centre opened in James Bay on April 28, 2020: (CTV News)

Island Health says it is "challenged" by a shortage of health-care practitioners facing jurisdictions across Canada.

The health authority's statement comes in response to questions from CTV News Vancouver Island about the reportedly impending departure of three doctors and a nurse currently working at James Bay Urgent and Primary Care Centre in Victoria.

While Island Health did not confirm the specifics of the departures, it did acknowledge that primary care providers would be leaving the facility soon.

"Physicians and nurse practitioners are independent business people and where they choose to practice and live is a personal choice," the health authority said in an email to CTV News.

"Despite these upcoming departures, the UPCC will continue to provide services to both attached patients and to unattached patients who require urgent primary care."

Since it opened in April 2020, the James Bay Urgent and Primary Care Centre has seen 28,780 patient visits and become the primary care provider for 2,273 patients, according to Island Health.

Those patients are attached to the centre, rather than a specific doctor, as their care provider, and they'll continue to receive care through the UPCC after the impending departures, the health authority said.

"We continue to focus on recruitment of primary care providers and our practice will continue to grow as more primary care providers are hired," it said.

Asked about broader challenges to recruiting and retaining staff at UPCCs, the health authority acknowledged the Canada-wide shortages, but said its staffing plan for each UPCC is targeted to the specific needs of the local population.

"UPCCs provide both longitudinal and urgent access to primary care and include a mix of full-time and shift-based primary care providers, the latter of which may work in multiple primary care settings," Island Health said. "Given this, the availability of primary care provider coverage is not static but shifts based on availability and their practice elsewhere."

The health authority said its urgent and primary care centres are opening in stages and "building to full capacity over time."

Since opening, the Westshore, James Bay and North Quadra UPCCs have served a combined total of more than 100,000 patients, Island Health said.