More than a year after opening, the Fraser Valley’s lone urgent care clinic is closed five days each week

BC’s Urgent and Primary Care Clinics are supposed to provide same-day care outside of hospitals and to alleviate crowding in those facilities. But that wasn’t the experience for one Abbotsford senior who needed help.

By Joti Grewal | December 22, 2021 |5:00 am

Nearly two years ago, Health Minister Adrian Dix stood in Abbotsford to announce the imminent opening of a new type of medical clinic. BC’s Urgent and Primary Care Clinics are supposed to provide same-day care outside of hospitals and to alleviate crowding in those facilities. But more than a year after the valley’s only urgent care clinic opened, it still isn’t fully operational.

The clinics are intended to offer care to people who need medical attention within 12 to 24 hours, according to Fraser Health. But that wasn’t the experience for one Abbotsford senior who needed help.

Late last month a 66-year-old woman (who didn’t want to be identified by name) attempted to visit the city’s urgent care centre in west Abbotsford to follow up on a medical issue. She had seen her family doctor about it earlier, and had been advised to return if her condition worsened. Unfortunately, it did.

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“I tried my family doctor and he wasn’t available,” she said. “He told me to go on to a walk-in clinic.”

But then she remembered there was an urgent care centre in Abbotsford.

“I thought, well, yeah, this is the place I should be going, not to emergency,” the woman said. “It was important but I just didn’t think it needed to be tended to at emergency.”

When she arrived at the clinic late afternoon that Monday she was turned away at the door. She said she was told by a staff member, through an intercom, that the urgent care centre was closed and although the primary-care clinic was open, she was not eligible to be treated there because she already has a family doctor.

“I said yeah, but I can’t get in to see my family doctor until Wednesday or Thursday,” the woman recounted.

The medical centre opened last year in April, offering only primary care services to start. But, like the dozen clinics that opened before it, it is also intended to serve people in need of urgent care that is difficult to find outside of the emergency department. And it was only just last month, on Nov. 6, that the Abbotsford location started to provide urgent care services.

A list of operating hours on Fraser Health’s website shows the Abbotsford location has the most restrictive hours for urgent care in the health authority. The clinic is open only on weekends from 8am to 4pm. Surrey has two clinics, each open seven days a week until 9pm. In Port Moody and Maple Ridge, clinics are open every day until 8pm.

When The Current asked Fraser Health if the woman took the right steps to seek care, they said they were concerned she was not able to access their services and reiterated that the urgent care centre is only available on weekends.

“Fraser Health is working to expand services to include urgent care seven days a week. As we recruit additional team members for the Abbotsford UPCC, including physicians, we will expand hours,” the spokesperson said.

We asked the Abbotsford Division of Family Practice, who helped co-design the centre, if there was a staffing issue at the medical clinic. But they told The Current it wouldn’t be appropriate for them to comment.

Still, the province continues to open new centres in communities across the province. The latest location to open was in Cranbrook on Dec. 8, one of 26 new clinics announced by the government as part of its primary care strategy.

But that strategy didn’t help the Abbotsford senior who spoke to The Current. After being rejected by the clinic, the woman considered going to a walk-in clinic across the street.

“The walk-in clinic was about to close at 4pm. I chose not to go to emergency as I couldn’t manage what I knew would be a long wait going into the evening/night,” she said. “The next day, I waited three hours in emergency before being seen by a doctor and another three hours before I was discharged. That was exhausting.”

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Joti Grewal

Reporter at Fraser Valley Current

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