A municipal effort to improve access to health care services in the community now has some options and a timeline.
Town of Osoyoos Council this morning received a 112-page report from Colliers Project Leaders — engaged by the Town to determine the feasibility of developing and operating a health services centre — that provides three preferred locations and suggests the facility could be operational by June 2020.
“We think there are three possible options for the community to bring a community health centre here to this area,” Colliers’ Ralf Nielsen told Council.
Those locations include:
- the former Sagebrush Lodge that was previously used as a seniors/long term care facility before the residents were moved to Mariposa Gardens when it opened in 2008 and is now home to the Interior Health Authority’s Osoyoos Health Centre;
- A .31-hectare site located on Spartan Drive next to the Osoyoos Medical Centre and behind the Canada Post building and Royal Canadian Legion; and,
- A 1.02-hectare property located at 6010 Maple Drive that was recently gifted to the Town by the Robert L Conconi Foundation.
Two other options — including building on the existing Main Street boat parking property — were discounted.
The Sagebrush Lodge location provides several options for the Town, including renovation or demolition of the existing facility or construction of a new building on vacant land south of the existing building.
The minimum cost for such an undertaking would be at least $9.6 million and could go as high as $13.6 million.
Colliers noted the provincial government is actively looking to place UPCCs in 10 communities over the next 12 months.
Whichever location is selected, Colliers’ vision for the centre — what it calls an Urgent Primary Care Centre (UPCC) — includes:
- Providing essential primary care services with expanded hours and capacity for same-day appointments;
- employing a team-based care approach — involving physicians, nurse-practitioners, a primary-care nurse and a mental health clinician — to provide improved access to primary care services;
- reducing pressure on the emergency department at South Okanagan General Hospital by diverting patients requiring non-emergency care.
The clinic would also provide a home for other health care service providers, including home care nurses, dieticians, respiratory therapists, social workers, mental and substance use workers and public health nurses.
“We’ve come to the conclusion that, yes, Osoyoos needs a primary care centre in the region,” said Mr. Nielsen.
“There are different options with respect to how to fund that, but there’s interest from Interior Health to continue to explore that and likely some areas of exploration related to senior or affordable housing that could come together with a very unique facility that blends health care with a broader social agenda.”
Counc. Mike Campol expressed concern that developing a primary care facility in Osoyoos might impact staffing at the South Okanagan General Hospital’s ER.
“Is there a concern that we’re robbing Peter to pay Paul if physicians were attracted to work in this facility?” he asked.
“You’re just rebalancing the load from one location to another location,” replied Mr. Nielsen. “There are other hospitals that work on that particular level that meet the needs of the community (with) a reshifting of the workload and the physician services into a different area.”
Counc. CJ Rhodes added he was concerned with the Town’s capacity to engage with the Interior Health Region in “partnering” a shared-services facility.
The study — funded through a $100,000 Rural Dividend Grant — was initiated after a visit from an ad-hoc community group in April 2017 proposing a not-for-profit walk-in clinic for the Main Street building now occupied by the Desert Sun Counselling and Resources Centre.
Residents for Health Care made that pitch as part of an effort to find a solution to a shortage of doctors in the community.
When asked this morning what the “next steps” would be for the project, CAO Barry Romanko noted a report would be prepared for Council.
“It’ll be on the table for the next council to take a look at how this study can be advanced or moved within the priorities of local government and the community,” he said.
Added Mayor Sue McKortoff: “Everybody needs to realize that we’re not going to start breaking ground on this this morning.”