New Interior Health CEO praises South Okanagan-Similkameen health care | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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New Interior Health CEO praises South Okanagan-Similkameen health care

New Chief Executive Officer for Interior Health, Chris Mazurkewich, speaks to media about local health care in Penticton Tuesday, Nov. 24.

PENTICTON - Provincial capital funding for health has been outstanding in the past decade, according to the new Chief Executive Officer of Interior Health.

Chris Mazurkewich and other Interior Health officials met with members of the press this week to discuss local health issues as he toured the South Okanagan-Similkameen.

“I think the track record of the government in regard to capital funding has been outstanding over the last decade. If I look at  Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton and Kamloops as some of the examples, and I can name a half dozen other examples, I would use the word ‘pouring' capital dollars into healthcare within Interior Health,” Mazurkewich said, adding he believes the spending is unprecedented in his working career.

When asked about increasing capital funding to retain in-house laundry services, however, he said Interior Health is one of few remaining health authorities in the province that continues to do in-house laundry. When it comes to capital funding, Interior Health currently sees the issue as a question of allocation — whether the capital funding could be better spent on clinical care rather than an in-house service that could be contracted out. He said he’s been asking questions about the issue since his arrival, and as a result a decision regarding contracting out of laundry services has been put off until the March 2016 board meeting.

Mazurkewich praised the present state of health care in Princeton General Hospital, noting how well the young physicians in the community were working with nurse practitioners.

“For me that’s exciting. There is also the  shared care program, where specialists from Penticton are going to Princeton, and they’ve seen about 460 patients. Before that, when the general practitioners were referring patients from Princeton to Penticton they had about a 38 per cent ‘no show’ rate for transportation and various reasons,” he said, noting specialists now understand Princeton hospital better and are providing education and other support services to physicians in the community. “From my perspective, the hospital is functioning way smoother. I’ve seen some infrastructure improvements there and I like the idea of their upcoming trials for a different fashion of paramedic services.” 

He said Princeton has moved to a more collaborative approach, working with local civic officials, something that wasn’t happening 10 years ago.

“There’s been a remarkable shift in that regard, and I’d like to see us support that and continue that direction. I think they’re on a great journey,” he said.

Mazurkewich also had praise for Keremeos residents Walter Despot and Roger Mayer for their 'visionary' project,  the South Similkameen Health Centre. He said the facility, which houses doctors, emergency treatment, clinic, assisted living and residential care all under one roof is still seen as 'the way to do health care' in a small rural community.

“That’s still a great model, and local community leadership, pushing Interior Health to do that, has been a remarkable success story from my perspective,” he said.

In Oliver, at South Okanagan General Hospital,  Mazurkewich said an internal computer system in use there may be adopted by other hospitals in the province. Oliver’s shared care model and collaborative effort between medical and community leaders is something he’d like to see adopted by other rural communities.

“Really good things are happening at this end of Interior Health. I’m hoping to find that in the rest of Interior Health,” he said.

Mazurkewich assumed the CEO’s position on Oct. 26, replacing retiring Dr. Robert Halpenny. Mazurkewich worked for Interior Health between 2002 and 2009 as Chief Operating Officer of Strategic and Corporate Services.

To contact a reporter for this story, email Steve Arstad at or call 250-488-3065. To contact the editor, email or call 250-718-2724.

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