Once upon a time not that long ago, local seniors with dementia and other complex health problems had to find their way to various medical appointments in a lot of different places around Chilliwack and the Fraser Valley to get the right care.
Since June, however, the Chilliwack Primary Care Seniors Clinic at the Chilliwack Hospital has worked to change all that. The clinic is a one-stop shop for both seniors and their family doctors looking for specialized care for the elderly.
On Thursday it celebrated its official opening with the signing of a partnership agreement between the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice and the Fraser Health Authority.
The clinic, which has already seen 113 patients, was designed in part on input from seniors with dementia and their families, as well as the Chilliwack Alzheimer's Society.
"What we heard from them was they got confused about who and how and where services are here in Chilliwack," said Fraser Health director of clinical programs for older adults Kathleen Friesen, who co-chaired the clinic's working group. "They also wait, they said, sometimes between three to six years to receive a diagnosis of dementia."
The clinic was also designed to support family doctors treating elderly patients who need specialized care.
Now, instead of sending them to multiple specialists in multiple locations, doctors can make a single referral to the clinic, where patients get a comprehensive assessment, health improvement plan and access either to a family doctor with specialized training in care for the elderly or to specialists like a geriatric psychiatrist and geriatrician.
"They had to send people here, there and everywhere, and what we've done is we've brought everyone together in one place," Friesen said.
Chilliwack's family doctors could well be showing the rest of the province the way of the future with the clinic, according to Fraser Health director of integrated primary community care Georgia Bekiou.
"There's a lot of interest in this clinic regionally and provincially because it really is the first of its kind," she told the Times. "Some of the other divisions and communities are really interested in potentially mirroring the model."
For one thing, it's the first time a division anywhere in the health authority has jointly opened a clinic with Fraser Health, she said.
It's also the first time family doctors have banded together to provide assessment and specialist services on behalf of their membership.
"That's not done that way anywhere else in B.C," Bekiou said.
? For more information about the Chilliwack Primary Care Seniors Clinic, phone 604-702-2850.