05/28/2014 09:32 EDT | Updated 07/28/2014 05:59 EDT

Fight to save Pine Clinic in Kits gets political

The NDP plans to present a petition at the B.C. Legislature Wednesday to save the Pine Community Health Clinic in Vancouver's Kitsilano nieghbourhood from closure this fall.

"Pine is symbolic of a larger decision by the government and Vancouver Coastal Health to close public health clinics across the city," said NDP MLA David Eby, who represents Vancouver-Point Grey.

The 40-year-old youth clinic is slated for closure in October, as part of Vancouver Coastal Health's consolidation of community health centres.

Supporters say it's an essential resource for youth in Vancouver's west side.

"It's been a really big part of my life," said 21-year-old Anita Shen, who's been using the Pine Clinic since she was 16.

"It's somewhere that we could actually ask questions about things that were on our minds, like sexual health."

Eby says 1,251 people have signed the petition, which calls for the continued operation of a dedicated youth clinic in Metro Vancouver for another 40 years.

Health Authority says consolidation will benefit vulnerable

The Pine Clinic is one of several community health centres that are being consolidated at Raven Song.

Vancouver Coastal Health says youth will be better served at a new clinic at the existing Raven Song Community Health Centre, at 2450 Ontario St., and through expanded services at the Three Bridges Primary Care Clinic in downtown Vancouver, and the East Van Public Health Youth Clinic at Broadway and Commercial. 

Eby says the move will leave 15,000 patients without doctors.

But Dr. David Hall, the medical director for primary care at Vancouver Coastal Health, says that's not true.

"We're not reducing the amount of service that we provide," Hall said.

"Several of our physicians across those clinics are actually moving into nearby traditional family practices and taking the majority of their clients with them."

Health Minister Terry Lake says changing demographics mean needs have shifted away from Kitsilano.

"Particularly with the new city-supported housing units that are going in, they are much closer to the Raven Song Community Health Centre," Lake said.

"So this expanded level of service and the longer hours at Raven Song will benefit a greater number of people."

Eby says Raven Song is already operating at capacity, and increasing hours is not enough to serve patients affected by the consolidation.