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Whistler 360 Health Collaborative patient registry now open

Are you a local without a family doctor?
The Whistler Health Care Centre. File photo

The Whistler 360 Health Care Collaborative Society previously estimated that about half of Whistler residents do not have a family physician. 

The organization can expect to have a more exact figure soon, after officially opening up a patient registry to the community earlier this month. 

The Google Form prompts any Whistler resident without a primary care provider to register that status, adding their name (or a family member's) to the list of locals seeking a family physician or nurse practitioner. Whistler 360 will contact prospective patients on the list once space becomes available.

Hundreds of Whistlerites have already added their names to the registry since it opened about three weeks ago, said Whistler 360 chair Carol Leacy. The organization posted links to the registry in the Whistler Health Care Centre emergency room and through Whistler Community Services Society's channels before announcing it to the wider community. 

"We started with that to try and get to people who were probably most in need, and then now we're just trying to get the word out to everyone" she explained.

"It's been great just to really figure out what the true demand is in Whistler," Leacy added. "We're really hoping to spread the word about that, because we do want to build that list to understand the demand, and then it gives us a way to start contacting people when we do have new [health-care practitioners] starting."

Opening the registry is Whistler 360's latest step toward its goal of improving patients' access to care within the community. Whistler 360 officially merged with the Whistler Medical Clinic on Jan. 1, transitioning the resort’s last remaining and longest-standing family medicine practice to a non-profit financial model. The society grew out of a Primary Care Task Force established in 2019 to help address Whistler’s family physician shortage, and was incorporated under the Societies Act in 2021.

The group's ultimate goal is to establish a community-governed, team-based clinic that will provide longitudinal care to more patients, while addressing many of the issues that discourage physicians from pursuing careers in family practice in the first place.

Renovations are currently underway on two new primary care rooms within the Whistler Health Care Centre, donated to Whistler 360 by Vancouver Coastal Health, as well as on a new satellite space in the Main Street location that previously housed Town Plaza Medical Clinic. 

Those renovations are on track to be complete by about the end of March, said Leacy. 

"In the meantime, we're just securing some new doctors and nurse practitioners," she added. "Nothing's final on that yet, but we do hope in the next coming months that we'll have lots more to share and, hopefully, some staff that we could introduce to people."

For now, patients without a family doctor can still call the Whistler Medical Clinic on Saturday and Sunday mornings to book same-day walk-in appointments. The clinic has also been experimenting with extended hours during the week, Leacy added. 

"That's gone over really well, because a lot of people seem to prefer the post-work [appointments], and anytime we add a second provider on the weekends, it just fills right up," she said. "We're going to continue trying to do that, so people, even when we can't attach new patients, we'll be able to at least serve their immediate primary care needs."