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Expanded team-based care bringing more doctors, nurses, improved health care for people in south Okanagan

May 29, 2024 at 2:44 pm  BC, News, Politics, Provincial

More health-care professionals are coming online in the Okanagan Valley, providing team-based health care to people as a result of the expanded primary care network (PCN) in south Okanagan-Similkameen.

“People in the B.C. Interior deserve high-quality health care, close to home,” said Premier David Eby. “Now is the time to strengthen public-health care by building more hospitals and hiring health-care workers, not making devastating cuts. An expanded south Okanagan primary care network means new family doctors, nurses, allied health professionals and more, delivering the care people deserve.”

People in the region are receiving team-based care from more than 36 full-time equivalent (FTE) health-care providers, including family physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, Traditional Healers and allied health professionals, including social workers and mental-health clinicians, with more FTEs coming online soon that have been approved and funded.

“We are putting people first by making significant investments into B.C.’s health-care workforce and system,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “With the hiring of dozens of health-care providers working directly in the south Okanagan, we are improving access to team-based care for more people, as well as connecting more people to a primary care provider.”

PCNs mean that members of the team consult with one another to support a patient with their health concerns. For example, when someone with diabetes talks to a family physician or nurse practitioner who is with the PCN about their health, they can be referred to a dietitian who can support them in learning how to manage their health. That dietitian may also consult with a social worker for counselling if a patient is struggling with their diagnosis. A senior with arthritis can get care from a primary care provider who may then refer them to a physiotherapist. Patients will not have to travel far from home for care.

The connection between providers is thanks to the PCN. This collaboration within the PCN team ensures holistic, appropriate and timely support is available without the patient needing to wait and travel a long distance to receive the specialized support of various disciplines.

“Both patients and practitioners see the enormous value in team-based care,” said Roly Russell, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen. “With the challenges we’ve seen across the country for people accessing primary care, government support for our primary care network is more important than ever. With the addition of more health-care professionals and expanding the PCN into more communities in south Okanagan-Similkameen, we are making progress to improve access to health-care services, now and in the future.”

As of May 2024, 22,558 people have been attached to a primary care provider through the South Okanagan Similkameen PCN overall. Those in need of a primary care provider can register to be attached through the Health Connect Registry.

Through the South Okanagan Similkameen PCN’s rural growth plan, team-based primary care was extended to Oliver, Osoyoos, Princeton and Keremeos, as well as the Upper Similkameen Indian Band, Lower Similkameen Indian Band and Osoyoos Indian Band.

The South Okanagan Similkameen PCN rural growth plan adds resources to strengthen services identified as high priority and meeting the specific health-care needs of people living in the south Okanagan-Similkameen region. These include:

  • improved access to care for those with mild to moderate mental-health conditions within the primary care setting;
  • better co-ordination of services for families and seniors who are frail, and people with complex health issues;
  • more comprehensive and co-ordinated health care; and
  • culturally safe care for Indigenous Peoples.

The PCN is a partnership between the Ministry of Health, Interior Health, South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice, Indigenous partners, patients and other local community partners.

The Ministry of Health added approximately $2.2 million to support the rural growth plan, for a total of $6.8 million in annual funding at full implementation for the operation of the South Okanagan Similkameen PCN. In addition, one-time funding of $3.4 million is also being provided, which includes change management and capital funding.

When the South Okanagan Similkameen PCN launched in May 2019, it was based in Summerland, Penticton, Penticton Indian Band and Okanagan Falls with a plan to bring more communities into the network over time.

The South Okanagan Similkameen PCN is part of B.C.’s plan to support health-care providers and increase patient access to primary care. There are currently 79 primary care networks, and work is underway to establish them in more communities throughout the province over the next two years.

These actions are part of B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy, which puts people first by ensuring they get the health services they need and are cared for by a healthy workforce, now and in the future. The strategy focuses on 70 key actions to recruit, train and retain health-care workers while redesigning the health-care system to foster workplace satisfaction and innovation.

Learn More:

To learn more about the Province’s primary health-care strategy, visit:  

To learn more information about the Health Connect Registry, visit:

To learn the one-year update of B.C.’s Health Human Resources Strategy, visit:

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