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Kitsilano youth fear losing Pine Free clinic

Some Kitsilano residents are anxious over concerns that a longtime walk-in youth clinic in their neighbourhood is closing.
Pine Free
The Pine Free clinic on 4th Avenue will be closing its doors after more than 40 years in operation. Photo: Dan Toulgoet

Some Kitsilano residents are anxious over concerns that a longtime walk-in youth clinic in their neighbourhood is closing.

An online petition demanding that Vancouver Coastal Health provide more information about the closure of Pine Free Youth Clinic had 389 signatures as of the Courier’s Tuesday print deadline.

The petition at reads: “If the Pine Free is terminated, our community, and specifically our youths, will experience an increase in drug abuse, suicide, STI’s, depression, eating disorders, and pregnancy.”

Bryan LaRochelle started the petition when he found out from people working at Pine Free that Vancouver Coastal Health plans to close the clinic down.

Operating for more than 40 years, the clinic is well known to youth as a safe place to go for questions about sexual and mental health. Emelie Peacock, a 26 year-old UBC graduate, went to Pine Free as a student for STI and pregnancy testing.

“It was an important resource for me because I was new to Vancouver at the time and I didn’t have a GP,” she said. “It was a very welcoming place and the staff were non-judgmental. If they were to shut down, there would be a gap in services for young people.”

At times, the line up to see a heath professional at Pine Free extends out the door and onto the sidewalk.

Concerns over funding cuts for Pine Free and other community health centres stem from Vancouver Coastal Health’s plan to restructure primary care services. Salary-paid doctors at clinics such as Pine Free may soon be paid on a per service basis.

Vancouver Coastal Health responded to questions from the Courier with an email: “Physicians are currently engaged in working with an independent consultant to pursue transitioning to a fee for service model which would see a clinic remain open at the Pine location,” the email read.

Vancouver Coastal Health’s website states that the health care services at Pine Free will be available at the Raven Song clinic, located on the corner of Ontario Street and East Eighth Avenue. There is no mention of whether this will result in any change to services at Pine Free.

David Eby, NDP MLA for Vancouver-Point Grey, questions the move to cut funding to clinics like Pine Free. “It’s a model that works very well, and to see something like that taken apart for no reason is concerning,” he said.