VICTORIA -- Victoria’s new urgent and primary care centre (UPCC) had a soft opening in James Bay Tuesday with eager patients lined up to receive medical attention.

The James Bay Urgent and Primary Care Centre will provide the community with urgent and primary care as well as rapid access to mental health treatment. Once fully staffed, the clinic expects to see 50 to 60 patients a day.

Island health is working to have the clinic fully staffed within a few months, and plans to attach up to 5000 patients for longitudinal care.

For the month of May, the clinic will be open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. After June 1, the centre will operate from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.

On Tuesday, procedures were in place to allow patients to enter the centre if they needed to see a doctor in person. Other patients were sent home to arrange an online meeting with a doctor.

The new James Bay centre is the third UPCC to open on Vancouver Island, with centres in the Westshore and Nanaimo already seeing patients.

The goal of UPCCs is to fill B.C.’s doctor shortage gap, as many British Columbians find themselves without a doctor.

“It's just an exciting time in healthcare,” said Dr. William Cunningham, medical director for Urban Victoria Community Health Services and department jead for Primary Care.

“I think this is a great idea, I think it will serve the population of James Bay and the adjacent areas very well and close the gap that's been here a long time,” he said.

‘It just a privilege for me and the team to be involved in this kind of a project which I think will make a huge difference.”

Care will be provided by both family physicians and nurse practitioners which Dr. Cunningham says will be a bit of first for Victoria.

“Family physicians provide excellent care, nurse practitioners proved excellent care, they come from a slightly different training background but the care should be very complimentary,” he said.

“I think it will work extremely well so that we can match patients' care needs to the practitioners that they need.”

Plans to open another UPCC in Victoria are already underway. Island Health has leased a space in the partially constructed Wade Building in downtown Victoria with a request for proposals to make the space suitable for a health clinic. The work is expected to take place this summer.