Vancouver’s only clinic catering just for young people is closing after four decades.
The Pine Free Clinic provided health care services to youth 24 and under, including those without medical insurance.
The 41-year-old clinic’s closure on Oct. 31 is part of Vancouver Coastal Health’s plan to concentrate funding on larger all-purpose clinics where youth can access a range of resources.
“Youth in Kitsilano and everywhere in the city are being left in the dust,” said Anita Shen, one of three former patients who filed a complaint with the British Columbia Ombudsperson about the closure.
Pine Free on West Fourth Avenue in Kitsilano offered expertise and support for youth dealing with issues such as addictions, mental health, and sexual health. The clinic offered specialized services for youth through a team of physicians, counsellors, and nurse practitioners.
“Talking about sexual health when you’re a teenager is hard,” said Sylvanna Baugh, one of the patients who filed the complaint.
“Because Pine Free doesn’t operate on a fee-for-service model, you don’t get rushed out and you have time to address your needs.”
“It provides really important services to youth who won’t feel comfortable getting them from their family doctor, if they have a family doctor,” said Baugh.
However, in a B.C. legislature address, Vancouver-Point Grey MLA David Eby noted that the hours available for youth medical support at Raven Song will only be 20 hours per week, significantly less than 40-plus hours at Pine Free.
Supporters of the clinic held a zombie walk on Oct. 26 to draw attention to the clinic’s closure.
“I’m disappointed with Vancouver Coastal Health for communications around the closure and the Minister of Health for not stepping in to facilitate discussion,” said Eby at the event.
Place of healing
In August, three patients filed a complaint with the British Columbia Ombudsperson, alleging a Vancouver Coastal Health poster included misleading advertising about the clinic’s closure.
The Ombudsperson recently rejected the complaint.
Critics say community outreach regarding the clinic’s closure was limited.
In June, Vancouver Coastal Health asked Shen to help plan a community consultation for the clinic’s patients. However, the summer went by and she did not receive any further communication.
“Turns out, they completely scrapped the idea. It was insulting,” said Shen.
The health authority distributed a short survey regarding the clinic’s closure.
Shen hopes the spirit of the clinic can live on, describing it as a “place of strength and healing.”