It was March 2019 when the only medical clinic in Peachland, B.C., closed its doors, leaving the community of more than 5,000 without a doctor.
The clinic’s closure came after the physician owner and director retired.
Since then, residents, many of them seniors have had to commute between 20 to 40 kilometers to see a doctor in neighbouring communities.
“I always kind of felt safe that there was a medical clinic here if anything was going to go wrong,” said Peachland resident Michele Thompson.
Read more: Peachland’s only doctor’s office is closing
On Tuesday, though, news was revealed that the medical clinic will reopen in the fall.
“We have a great need to have medical care here in our community. The citizens are travelling a great distance to receive medical care, and hopefully we can remove that burden,” said Sarah Kendrick, who will operate the clinic.
Kendrick and her partner Jubi Steinhauer are launching a business venture called Beachside Health Limited, which will be the company that will own and operate the clinic.
“We will do all of the administration and carry the responsibility and burden of running the business,” Kendrick told Global News.
The pair, who have a background in business, said they stepped forward because they saw a significant need for medical services.
“I grew up here. My partner grew up in the Okanagan as well and we want to work locally and contribute to our community,” Kendrick said. “And we recognize the need here was, you know, significant for a medical clinic and so we thought that maybe we’d put our heads together and see what we could do.”
Efforts to recruit a doctor to take over the clinic have been ongoing for years but without success.
“I haven’t really discussed a lot of it with the public because I just hate to get their hopes up, only to have their hopes dashed,” said Peachland mayor Cindy Fortin. “But behind the scenes, there has been a lot of effort.”
A major challenge of recruitment efforts is that many doctors want to practice medicine and treat patients and not have to deal with the business end of running a clinic.
“They don’t want to carry the burden of running a business as well as practice and treat their full panel of patients. It’s too great a burden to carry,” Kendrick said. “So with us operating the business and making it turn-key for doctors to come to treat their patients and go home, we’re hoping we can attract doctors who are really craving that work-life balance.”
The plan is to reopen the clinic sometime in the fall.
Interior Health has already designated a nurse and nurse practitioner for the facility and work is actively underway to get doctors on site.
“We’re hoping to attract doctors who are already treating Peachlanders to come back to work in a team-based care environment and practice here one or two days a week and simply treat their Peachlanders here where they live,” Kendrick said.
Peachland’s mayor says the last three-plus years have been difficult for the residents.
“It’s difficult. It’s really difficult to especially with our seniors or people with mobility challenges to get to other communities to see their doctor,” Fortin said. “My doctor is all the way in Kelowna, so that’s very difficult.”
The soon-to-be-open clinic has 10 treatment rooms and the goal is also to bring in registered massage therapists, physiotherapists and other specialists to create a medical hub for a community that has lacked medical services for far too long.
“This is huge news for Peachland. It’s been very hard to keep it under wraps for the last several months and I really have to give kudos to Sarah and the small group of her partners that are working on this,” Fortin said.
“They just have been doing amazing and I’m so happy we can finally announce this.”