12/21/2011 03:23 EST | Updated 02/20/2012 05:12 EST

Nurses say closing 5 B.C. sex health clinics will cost more in the long run

KELOWNA, B.C. - The B.C. Nurses Union says the closure of five sex health clinics in the southern interior will end up costing the health care system more in the long run.

The clinics in Kelowna, Kamloops, Penticton, Grand Forks and Cranbrook offer tests for sexually transmitted diseases, but the Interior Health Authority says they aren't used much and there are other alternatives.

Nurses Union President Debra McPherson says the alternatives, including family doctors, are inadequate and not as cost-effective as the clinics.

The union — which represents staff at the clinics — says many people don't have a family doctor, and the clinics provide tests and treatment at a fraction of the cost of having them done by a doctor.

In addition to tests and treatment, the union says clinic staff also counsel people with sexually transmitted diseases, provide vaccinations for high-risk cases, and help guide clients toward safer sex practices, which makes everyone safer.

McPherson says the clinics should be considered an essential public service and she's written Health Minister Mike de Jong, urging him to reverse the closures.