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A first-in-BC health hub at the former Fortius centre

A Burnaby doctor says the city has a “momentous” opportunity to make serious headway on addressing health-care gaps with the newly bought Christine Sinclair Community Centre.

The City of Burnaby bought the property formerly owned by Fortius Sport and Health after the private fitness centre folded around the new year, and Dr. Baldev Sanghera successfully sought the city’s support to use that space for a “centre for healthy living.”

“The availability of the Christine Sinclair Community Centre in Burnaby gives us a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to develop and create a center of excellence in wellness,” Sanghera said.

Sanghera, speaking to council on behalf of the Burnaby Primary Care Network (PCN) yesterday, said the city could add capacity for up to 5,400 patients receiving primary health care.

He said the centre, if approved, would deliver onsite medical and social services for vulnerable populations, offer prevention and wellness services to the general public, deliver culturally appropriate care, and become “a center of excellence for youth specific care.”

“That has actually not happened anywhere else in BC,” Sanghera said.

“We have this amazing opportunity to come together and put this jigsaw puzzle together, … providing equitable access to care and support for everyone, supporting youth, addressing social determinants of health, integrating medical and community supports, and [providing] holistic care for every person in a patient centric kind of way.”

Sanghera said the Christine Sinclair centre, whose new name was recently approved by council, is “ideally located at the centre of the city” and would support the athletic services at the Fortius centre and the surrounding facilities at the Burnaby Lake Sports Complex. In fact, he said the centre could provide emergency services for injuries at those facilities.

“The existing infrastructure also actually includes an incredibly well-designed medical clinical space that will then be maximally utilized in the model that we are proposing,” he said.

“Because it’s centrally located, the idea is to then have spokes reaching out into other neighbourhoods—into Edmonds, into Metrotown, into Brentwood-Hastings, and into Lougheed. So we would truly serve all of Burnaby from here, and also be able to provide extra services that are not available in the other quadrants at this particular time.”

The PCN model, first introduced in Burnaby in 2019 through the Burnaby Divisions of Family Practices, creates localized networks of health-care workers and service providers in an effort to close the health-care gap. As Health Minister Adrian Dix noted in announcing the creation of Burnaby’s 3 PCNs, 1 in 6 Burnaby residents have struggled to find a consistent primary-care provider, such as a family doctor.

Sanghera said the last assessment, done around 4 years ago, found about 60,000 patients needing primary-care physicians.

They also provide “longitudinal care,” which means pairing patients with consistent health-care providers, such as family doctors, and even teams that provide holistic care.

“We can do a lot more than simply what we can do in a walk-in clinic, where you’re just providing episodic care,” Sanghera said.

Burnaby has 3 PCNs—Metrotown, Brentwood/Hastings, and Edmonds—with a 4th planned for Lougheed.

In 2019, Fraser Health noted that the Metrotown PCN would include a “centre for healthy communities,” described in the news release as a hub for services and care providers, and eventually developing “incubator clinics,” which would involve experienced family doctors mentoring new family doctors.

“The idea is then to have those [new] physicians take those patients as their panel and continue to practice in Burnaby,” Sanghera said. “But we would bring in a new set of doctors and nurse practitioners every 2 years [and] coach them, mentor them to develop further panels and continue to attach patients in Burnaby.”

The centre would also include mild to moderate mental health programs to fill in gaps not addressed by Fraser Health, a pharmacy program to “help patients best use their medications,” a social work program that offers information to access supports, a physiotherapy program that would be covered by MSP, and subsidized dental services.

“[The centre] actually has a purpose-built space inside for medical imaging, which has actually not been used, and it would be a shame to let that space go to waste,” Sanghera said.

Youth care at the centre would be similar to what’s provided at Foundry centres in BC, which the province has touted as a “one-stop-shop” for youth health, mental health and social services.

Lastly, the centre would also include a Friendship Centre, an Indigenous services hub described by the National Association of Friendship Centres as “the country’s most significant off-reserve Indigenous service delivery infrastructure.”

According to the NAFC website, there are Friendship Centres in Vancouver and Surrey, but none in Burnaby.

All told, the proposal would take up about 20,500 square feet, Sanghera said, divided evenly between medical and social services.

Sanghera said Burnaby PCN officials are developing a proposal for the Ministry of Health and hoped to get the city to endorse the model and to offer the Christine Sinclair centre as a site.

He added, in response to a question from Coun. Sav Dhaliwal, that the proposal has considerable support from Fraser Health and community-based services. Justin Lochang, with Fraser Health, also chimed in to say that the health authority is “absolutely something that we support.”

Council voted unanimously to direct staff to work with Burnaby PCNs on determining the feasibility and advisability of using the Christine Sinclair centre for the site.

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