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British Columbia’s health minister has announced the opening of the province’s fifth urgent primary care centre in order to lessen demand on emergency departments.

Adrian Dix said the facility opening in downtown Vancouver on Monday will provide treatment on evenings and weekends for non-life-threatening conditions.

The centres are part of the government’s plan to reform primary care through a “team-based” approach that includes a doctor and other health-care providers including nurse practitioners and pharmacists.

About 750,000 people in the province do not have a family doctor and often end up going to hospital emergency rooms, Dix said Sunday at the centre.

“There are currently 20,000 people in the city centre without a doctor,” he said, adding about a third of them go to emergency departments at two nearby hospitals for conditions that could be treated at the centre.

“It’s our intention, our determination, to have one new urgent primary care centre in each health authority every six months for the next two years,” Dix said.

The province plans to open a total of 10 centres.

In new year, the Vancouver facility is expected to provide access to four family doctors in the same building.

“Additionally, basic lab services and X-rays will be provided on-site at the centre, and a pharmacy is also located in the building,” Dix said.

Patients with mild to moderate mental health and substance-use challenges will be provided “same-day access to community supports,” he said.

Dr. Eric Cadesky, president of Doctors of BC, said the best health-care systems in the world include access to strong primary health care.

“We’re hopeful that this urgent primary care centre will be able to meet two of our community’s greatest needs: access to urgent care after traditional business hours and attachment of people to family doctors who will care for them on an ongoing, long-term basis,” Cadesky said.

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