October 23, 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic forced BC’s doctors to think on their feet, creating innovative solutions to an uncertain, evolving, and potentially devastating situation. With many areas facing unique challenges, the key priorities were establishing new care models, adapting existing methods, and maintaining patient safety.

Healthcare worker helping person in car outside of Powell River Recreation Complex

In the remote coastal community of Powell River, a collaborative approach to increasing patient capacity led to an innovative COVID-19 testing centre. Located in the Powell River Recreation Complex, the clinic offers appointment bookings online or by phone, providing drive-through COVID-19 assessment and collection from 8:30-11:30 a.m. daily. Two specially designed negative pressure rooms, with showers, enable full-service family physicians and nurse practitioners to safely see patients by referral.

A true group effort achieved through open discussion, iteration, and positive working relationships, the clinic was the result of collaboration between the Powell River Division of Family Practice, the Doctors Technology Office (both initiatives of the General Practice Services Committee), Vancouver Coastal Health, and various community stakeholders.

The clinic is already making a positive impact. “We have had people log onto the website and get a swab within 15 minutes,” says Powell River Division board chair Dr David May.

Dr May identified shared goals as key to success. “Everybody aims to have a low-barrier testing site. And having a safe place to assess people – which isn’t the ER, which can be a vulnerable area – is also a common aim.”

Profile photo of Dr David May

The idea arose in March, during the initial stages of the pandemic – a challenging time for physicians, health care workers, and patients. From the outset, working together was key. “We felt it really important that there was some collaboration that would give us some staying power.”

The clinic has created new opportunities for sustainability and adaptability with the aim of reducing pressure on the emergency department, increasing COVID-19 testing capacity, and keeping primary care capacity at healthy levels by reducing exposure risks – a crucial point for Powell River, which is five hours away from the closest major hospital. Dr May notes, “In a small rural setting, taking out one physician, means taking out 25% of our primary care capacity.”

As for the COVID-19 clinic’s future, the Division and stakeholders hope it continues functioning as a flu shot hub, offering a streamlined, low-barrier health care option that helps keep Powell River residents healthy while lowering COVID-19 risk to local family physicians.

Divisions of Family Practice is an initiative of the General Practice Services Committee, a joint partnership of Doctors of BC and the BC Government. The GPSC works closely with divisions and health authorities to support a foundation and culture for successful partnerships around the province resulting in better quality care for patients.