Town of Oliver continuing to work on their own clinic plans after RDOS denies funding

Pivoting plans for clinics

Casey Richardson

It seems South Okanagan communities will have to continue to work on their own to attract physicians and construct primary care centres after the Okanagan Similkameen Regional Hospital District voted not to provide funding for them. 

When the RDOS met on Thursday, many of the board members were still on opposing sides of the decision. 

The argument is that the primary care clinics could attract family physicians to the region, having an established practice set up already. But some board members believe that the main funding should still come from the province and not fall on local government. 

Others were disappointed by the vote.

“From what I saw, there’s people that just do not think local government has a role setting up clinics, there’s some people that don’t think the regional district should have a role in setting up clinics,” Martin Johansen, Oliver Mayor said. 

“I was disappointed with the outcome of what happened at the RDOS yesterday, but that is not the only option moving forward.”

For the residents of Oliver, their need for physicians is desperately growing.

“We’ve recently lost a few doctors, I think up to three, and of course there’s pending retirement of doctors that will happen over the next couple years. The biggest challenge is how do we recruit new doctors to come and support the community.”

“There are people in town here that are having to drive to Penticton to get a prescription filled because they don’t have a family doctor anymore.”

Johansen doesn’t believe this will impact the town’s own plan, continuing to work on a primary care centre themselves and with the divisions of family practice, and other family clinics.

“We’re also working with our MLA, our ministry of health in the province, to also find ways to get funding to be able to establish these clinics,” he said.

“It’s a blip, but it doesn’t deter me in any way, I firmly believe that team-based health care is the future.” 

But the options are limited for clinics, to either renovate an existing space or build a new one. 

“I think we need to look at what’s happening and things have changed in the world and the way doctors want to work….We have to have a way for people to have access to physicians.” 

There are an estimated 12,000 citizens in the region without access to a general practitioner, and the number is only climbing, according to the South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice. Of those currently seeing patients, a third are expected to retire within the next five years.

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