The Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District is continuing to discuss primary care clinic funding for the region (File Photo)

The Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District is continuing to discuss primary care clinic funding for the region (File Photo)

Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District district considers primary care clinic funding

Conversations have addressed need to recruit and retain doctors in South Okanagan and Similkameen

The Okanagan-Similkameen Regional Hospital District will maintain its current financial model for primary care clinic funding.

At the hospital district board meeting on Jan. 7, board members discussed primary clinic care funding for the region.

The discussions are part of an ongoing conversation to recruit and keep doctors in the area.

“We need to reach out to the residents and ask them what they want from us,” said Subrina Monteith, one of the hospital district directors.

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“Recruitment would be difficult even if there was a better supply of doctors,” said director Ron Obirek. “We are suffering tremendous shortages. This is not a new problem.”

The conversations have been ongoing since the 2019 business plan, when the board indicated that access to health care providers in the region was of interest, and that they would like to explore regional district participation in physician recruitment.

The South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice has been part of these conversations and has been involved in physician recruitment. The organization says there are roughly 12,000 residents without access to a general physician, and one-third of the general practitioners in the area are expected to retire in the next five years.

Through the Ministry of Health and health authorities, primary care networks and urgent and primary care centres are being set up throughout the province.

The South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice has said five clinics are needed in the region, in addition to the Ponderosa Primary Care Centre already in place in Penticton.

Erin Trainer, a director on the hospital district board, said other areas of the province are finding ways to make primare care clinics work. “I think we have the opportunity to take some kind of leadership here,” she said.

In order to particiate in funding primary care clinics, funds must go to facilities designated undert he provincial Hospital Act. Representatives from Interior Health have met with the hospital district board to discuss how this has worked in other areas.

An operating model for primary care clinics would need to be discussed in the future.

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