The provincial government has announced upwards of $4.4M in annual spending to bring a new primary healthcare network to the South Okanagan.
The investment announced Friday at the Penticton Community Centre will see the government, over the next three years, fund the hiring of six new general practitioners, five nurse practitioners and 11 other healthcare professionals to work in the region.
They will work towards establishing new team-based care in Penticton, Summerland and Okanagan Falls, with a new clinic expected to open in 2020.
"We know many people in the South Okanagan Similkameen region are challenged to find consistent primary care," said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. "Creating a primary-care network in Summerland, Penticton and Okanagan Falls is a step forward in providing thousands of residents in the region with access to the comprehensive primary-care services they need and deserve. Over time, we will bring more communities to the network, so more people across the region can have easier and faster access to quality health care."
The government says the new team of doctors and healthcare professionals will be able to treat thousands of patients in the area, which has been struggling with a significant doctor shortage in recent years.
The new services will compliment and partner with more than 50 general practitioners located in 20 existing primary-care clinics and private practices in Penticton, Summerland and Okanagan Falls.
"Previously, primary-care providers often worked in silos, shouldering the workload and administrative duties," said Dix. "By linking primary-care providers in networks we will help to put the patient at the centre of their own care and reduce the workload and stress that providers face."
The focus of the South Okanagan primary care network will aim to enhance access to regular, extended and after-hours primary care services.
The provincial government says it will be spending $4.4M a year on the network by year three. Primary-care networks have also previously been announced in Fraser northwest communities and in Burnaby.
More information on the network as it rolls out can be found through the South Okanagan Division of Family Practice.