More doctors, new clinic planned for South Okanagan, Similkameen: B.C. government

New plan for health care in the South Okanagan
The South Okanagan has been struggling with a doctor shortage, but the province is hoping to fix that by changing the way health care is delivered. Health Minister Adrian Dix was in Penticton for the announcement. Jules Knox reports on what it will mean for patients.

Six new doctors will be recruited to work in the South Okanagan and Similkameen over the next three years, the provincial government announced Friday morning.

The six general practitioners will be part of an effort to hire 22 healthcare providers, including five nurse practitioners and 11 healthcare professionals — nurses, social workers and a pharmacist.

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According to the Ministry of Health, the new hires will create a primary care network in the region. The network will reportedly bring additional resources and allow for the planning of a primary care clinic in the region.

“We know many people in the South Okanagan Similkameen region are challenged to find consistent primary care,” said Adrian Dix, minister of health.

“Creating a primary care network in Summerland, Penticton and Okanagan Falls is a step forward in providing thousands of residents in the region with access to the comprehensive primary care services they need and deserve.

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“Over time, we will bring more communities to the network,” Dix continued, “so more people across the region can have easier and faster access to quality health care.”

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The ministry said the primary care network will improve access for thousands of patients in the South Okanagan and Similkameen, starting with the communities of Summerland, Penticton and Okanagan Falls.

The clinic is expected to open in 2020 and will provide extended hours of service.

The ministry said that, over time, the primary care network will expand to include Oliver, Osoyoos, Keremeos, Princeton and surrounding First Nations communities.

The ministry added these communities have a combined population of 57,746 in 2019, which is expected to grow to 60,040 in 2024, and to 63,593 in 2032.

READ MORE: B.C. government announces more doctors coming to Tri-Cities, New West, Anmore and Belcarra

According to the Ministry of Health:

  • The South Okanagan Similkameen primary care network is a partnership between the Ministry of Health, Interior Health, the South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice and Penticton Indian Band, and is supported by the General Practice Services Committee, a joint clinical committee of the Ministry of Health and the Doctors of B.C.
  • The new services are integrating over the next three years with over 50 general practitioners located in 20 existing primary-care clinics in Penticton, Summerland and Okanagan Falls. The new and existing healthcare practitioners will work together with existing primary-care professionals as part of a networked, team-based approach to providing care.
  • Once fully operational, new resources being allocated to the SOS PCN will include:
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New team-based primary care clinic

  • The clinic will address a portion of the attachment need in the community, provide extended hours of care, and provide interdisciplinary allied team-based services to the entire primary care network.
  • The following resources will be added: four new general practitioners, three new nurse practitioners and eight additional healthcare professionals ranging from registered nurses to physiotherapists and social workers.

Mental health and substance use

  • The primary care network will provide outreach support to doctors’ offices for mental health and substance use, and stabilize staffing for the existing Martin St. Outreach Centre. This community hub is a one-stop location for patients to connect with a family doctor, psychiatrist, social worker, outreach worker, nurses and/or other community supports.
  • The Martin Street Outreach Centre provides team-based wraparound, specialized, integrated health services for individuals with mental-health and/or substance-use concerns. Currently, the clinic is the primary-care home to over 900 patients and also provides some additional specialized services such as Stop HIV, intensive case management and opioid-agonist therapies to help address the overdose crisis.
  • The following resources will be added: one new general practitioner, one new nurse practitioner and two social workers.

Snxastwilxtn Centre

  • The Snxastwilxtn Centre will increase attachment and access in the community and provide extended hours of care.
  • The following resources will be added: one part-time general practitioner and one part-time nurse practitioner.
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Summerland and Penticton clinics

  • Two existing primary-care clinics will receive new resources to increase attachment and access in their communities.
  • The following resources will be added: one new general practitioner and one new nurse practitioner.

How people can access primary-care networks:

  • A government website will be established for the networks to provide information to patients, including which clinics are part of the network, services provided and hours of operation, as well as how to access services and become attached to a practice.
  • Each network will actively communicate with its community as it grows its services so that people living in the community know how and where to access the health services they need.

Primary care network attributes include:

  • Processes to ensure all people in a community have access to quality primary care and are attached within a primary care network;
  • Provision of extended hours of care, including early mornings, evenings and weekends;
  • Provision of same-day access for urgently needed care through the primary care network or an urgent and primary care centre;
  • Access to advice and information virtually (online, text, email) and face to face;
  • Provision of comprehensive primary-care services through networking of primary-care providers and teams to include maternity, inpatient, residential, mild/moderate mental health and substance use, as well as preventative care;
  • Co-ordination of care with diagnostic services, hospital care, specialty care and specialized community services for all patients, and with a particular emphasis on those with mental-health and substance-use conditions, those with complex medical conditions and/or frailty and surgical services provided in community;
  • Clear communication within the network of providers and to the public to create awareness about appropriate use of services; and
  • Care that is culturally safe and appropriate.
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