By this time next year, members of the Penticton Indian Band should be receiving health-care services at an exclusive facility that will anchor a new community hub.
Dignitaries gathered Friday for a groundbreaking for the new $3.8-million health and social services centre, which will be perched on a stunning piece of reserve land high above the city with a view of both lakes.
“This is going to be another strong foundation for our community and our future generations,” said Chief Jonathan Kruger.
He said the on-reserve facility, which is unlike the private hospital planned by the Westbank First Nation, should put at ease some band members who are shy about seeing health professionals in the city.
“A beautiful building like this will help them come in and feel comfortable that we’re taking care of them,” he said. “It’s going to build a stronger community for us, for our health.”
The band is contributing $1.7 million to the build, while the remaining $2.1 million is being funded by Health Canada.
The 780-square-metre facility is expected to boast two medical examination rooms, two dental chairs, plus office and meeting space and a fitness centre.
Lynn Kruger, the band’s manger of health programs, expects health professionals from Penticton to rotate through the new building. The band and other local First Nations are also hiring a nurse practitioner who is expected to split time between communities.
“It’s at a point (now) where we can start taking control of our health services, and health and wellness can be provided in a way that’s culturally appropriate for our community members.”
She noted First Nations people have many of the same health concerns, like obesity and diabetes, as the broader population, although the problem seems more acute among aboriginals.
“The numbers can be quite high in our First Nations communities, and that’s part of the reason for our holistic approach to health care.”
Work on the new health centre was expected to begin over the weekend and should be complete by August 2014.
The low-slung building, which will be equipped with a geothermal heating and cooling system, was designed by Iredale Group Architecture, which won awards for its work on the Outma School. Local firm Greyback Construction will handle the build.
The school, health centre and a new band administration office to follow will form the planned community hub, explained Chief Kruger.
“I’m really proud to say that we’re stepping it up,” he said. “We’re very determined to create a stronger, healthier community.”