Help sought in developing family practices in South Okanagan and Similkameen

An estimated 15,000 people in region do not have a family doctor

Representatives with the South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice are seeking help with developing family practices in the region.

At the Okanagan Similkameen Regional Hospital District meeting on Thursday, Dr. Tim Phillips, co-chair of the Division of Family Practice, and chief executive officer Tracy St. Claire asked the hospital district for assistance in building family practices in the area.

Phillips said the traditional model of groups of doctors buying and operating their own spaces is no longer a feasible model.

“Family practice as we knew it 20 years ago is dying,” he said.

Instead, Phillips and St. Claire suggest providing space for doctors to practice medicine.

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The model they recommend is already in use at the Ponderosa Primary Care Centre.

That facility, which opened in early November, has six general practitioners and two nurse practitioners on staff and is open 12 hours a day Monday to Friday and shorter hours on Saturday and Sunday.

Phillips said similar care centres are needed throughout the region.

St. Claire added that around 15,000 people in the region are still in need of a family doctor.

Costs of these facilities vary by community.

St. Claire said estimated costs in Princeton would be $2 million to construct the facility and $500,000 for equipment.

In Penticton, $1 million for the building and $500,000 for the equipment would be needed.

The estimated cost for a Summerland facility would be $3 million for a building, with $750,000 for the necessary equipment.

In Keremeos, the cost of a facility is estimated at $1 million.

No locations have been identified for Oliver or Osoyoos.

Princeton mayor Spencer Coyne said family practice centres will not be the same in all communities in the region.

“Summerland and Princeton will be completely different at the end of the day,” he said.

Riley Gettens, director for Electoral Area F, said further discussion is needed.

“I think it’s important that the conversation keeps going,” she said.

Petra Veintimilla, chair of the regional hospital district, also believes the hospital board should discuss the issue further.

“It’s all of us, not just one community,” she said. “As a larger group, we can make a bigger dent.”

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