North Vancouver clinic supports vulnerable patients, showcases effective primary care

The North Shore Division of Family Practice and Vancouver Coastal Health have partnered to increase access to primary care for some of the area’s most vulnerable patients. The HealthConnection Clinic in North Vancouver supports local residents who don’t have a regular primary care provider and have complex medical, mental health, addiction, and/or socio-economic needs related to housing, income, access to food.

“The HealthConnection Clinic supports a difficult-to service population – the mentally ill, the addicted, the homeless. They are able to come into our clinic, which is serviced by family doctors, nurse practitioners, and social work,” says Dr Ruth Campling, Board Chair for the Division. “It exemplifies good team-based care.”

Original funding from the provincial A GP for Me initiative enabled the clinic to expand its capacity for patients by increasing the availability of family doctors, a social worker, nurse practitioner, and medical office assistant. Vancouver Coastal Health now continues to fund these enhancements.

Local GPs participate in delivering care, and the clinic provides opportunities for medical residents to get training. With the enthusiastic support of community partners – who are actively involved in referrals and the mutual support of clients – patients get additional assistance with housing, income, and access to food. 

Patients are feeling the difference. “I’ve had more medical care here than I care to shake a stick at. It’s been one thing after another. Some small things, and some big issues with me, too. It’s been great,” says one.

There are no barriers for patients, as a formal referral is not necessary for them to be seen. Patients can also be referred by other family physicians, community agencies, and Vancouver Coastal Health providers such as Lion’s Gate Hospital emergency department staff.

The HealthConnection Clinic has measured reduced hospital admissions and reduced re-admissions by more than one-third for patients who would typically have had between three to seven visits a year.

The Division describes the clinic as “primary care, done well, with the right providers working as a team.”