Thompson Rivers University (TRU) North and Interior Health are opening the first health center of its kind in B.C., right here in Williams Lake, where students and the general public can access a full-time family nurse practitioner for many of their health care needs.
For the women who helped make the clinic possible, it’s a dream come true. For the community, it will mean greater access to the health care system and possibly less time waiting for help at the ER.
“We are very excited about this,” says Rhonda McCreight, nursing program coordinator at TRU.
“There is no other university setting with this type of clinic in the province, maybe even the country.
“It’s really just a perfect fit because (at TRU North) we need healthcare, we need to learn about healthcare and we need to teach it.”
The TRU Health Center, which is expected to open to by mid-October, will see the university offer the clinic space, equipment and a medical office assistant while Interior Health will be footing the bill for the clinic’s full-time family nurse practitioner, Sandi Lachapelle.
Lachapelle, who was raised in Williams Lake and is now raising a family here herself, says she’s thrilled with the new position and is looking forward to offering more services for the community, including wellness clinics for women (to encourage paps and breast exams), medically supervised weight loss programs and a drop-in sexual health clinic, something she says has been lacking in Williams Lake.
“Williams Lake is one of the only communities in B.C. to be without a sexual health clinic,” Lachapelle says, noting Williams Lake has high rates of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), which can cause permanent damage if left untreated, as well as teen pregnancies.
“It’s a need in this community.”
The sexual health clinic will provide STI testing, contraception counseling and prescribing as well as pregnancy testing and parental counseling.
At the health clinic, Lachapelle will also be able to diagnose and treat acute health conditions, order lab, x-ray and CT scans, prescribe medications and manage, monitor and review chronic health conditions and refer patients to specialists.
Lachapelle will also be able to see people with acute minor injuries such as cuts needing stitches and minor illness such as a sore throat or ear infection.
She says her goal is to work collaboratively with the entire medical community for everyone’s benefit, including seeing patients who don’t have access to a family physician, which will hopefully reduce pressures felt at the ER.
She says Dr. Mark Gracia and Dr. Stefan deSwardt have stepped forward to support the clinic, and help Lachapelle when she has questions.
“They are my go-to people, my medical mentors. They are very supportive of me and my work, maybe they see the possibilities too.”
Clinic hours will be Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Donations for the new clinic are being grateful accepted by TRU North.
For more information, contact Rhonda McCreight at email@example.com.