Oliver & Osoyoos  

Premier's stop in Oliver includes update on primary healthcare, and promises about future

Promise of more doctors

Sarah Crookall

UPDATE: 5:30 p.m.

Premier David Eby says 36 of 41 "full time equivalent" healthcare provider positions slated for the region have been filled to date in the South Okanagan Similkameen as part of the provincially-funded primary care network program.

Breaking down the full-time equivalent hours, that equates to:

  • 6.2 family physicians
  • 8.5 nurse practitioners
  • 5.0 registered nurses
  • 11.5 allied health providers (social workers, dieticians, mental health workers, counsellors and the like)
  • 1.0 clinical pharmacists
  • 2.0 Indigenous traditional healers
  • 2.0 non-clinical support staff

At his press conference Wednesday, Eby, along with MLA Roly Russell and Health Minister Adrian Dix, touted the PCN program as an investment in the community, and faster, better access to a network of healthcare for a given patient, including a family physician.

Eby said one of the key problems facing communities like the South Okanagan throughout the province is attraction and retention of physicians, adding a plug for a new Simon Fraser University medical school program focused on training doctors dedicated to working in British Columbia communities in need of their services.

Eby and Dix also commented on the importance of keeping the doors open at the South Okanagan General Hospital emergency department. The ER has been plagued with closures due to short staffing for years.

"Here in [the] South Okanagan, we worked with doctors in the community to change the way that we pay doctors who work in the emergency room to an [alternative payments program] contract, which is something that they proposed," said Dix, referring to a recent change in payment policy from a fee-for-service model.

"It's already having an impact. You see a reduction in those closures. Our goal together is to eliminate them. And that involves recruiting more doctors. Emergency rooms need to be open 24/7. The one here needs to be open 24/7. And that's what we're going to do."

Provincial government heavy-hitters have held numerous media events in the South Okanagan in recent days, and are reportedly spending some time in the Osoyoos area for the NDP caucus retreat.

ORIGINAL: 2:40 p.m.

BC Premier David Eby continued his South Okanagan tour Wednesday with a stop at South Okanagan General Hospital to announce expansions to the primary care network in the region.

Eby, flanked by MLA Roly Russell and Health Minister Adrian Dix, spoke to media from outside the hospital, which has seen its share of troubles due to short staffing in recent years. Frequently, the emergency room is closed temporarily.

But the matter at hand Wednesday was access to primary care.

Eby and Dix announced that the existing South Okanagan Similkameen primary care network, or PCN, will expand through a $2.2 million addition in funding for the rural growth plan.

One-time funding of $3.4 million is also being provided, which the government describes as being for "change management and capital funding." The PCN in the South Okanagan Similkameen will receive $6.8 million in annual funding at full implementation.

"People in the B.C. Interior deserve high-quality health care, close to home," Eby said.

"An expanded South Okanagan primary care network means new family doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and more, delivering the care people deserve."

More Oliver/Osoyoos News