Next steps uncertain as funding for Penticton primary care centre denied | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Next steps uncertain as funding for Penticton primary care centre denied

A request from Interior Health to the RDOS board for $1 million in funding was turned down at yesterday's hospital board meeting.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/ Interior Health
April 16, 2021 - 5:30 PM

A request for funding for Penticton’s new urgent primary care centre didn’t sit well with members of the Regional District of Okanagan Similkameen’s Hospital Board.

Interior Health Executive Director Carl Meadows brought an extraordinary capital request for one-time funding of $1 million to the regional district hospital board, April 15.

The hospital board is made up of the same directors as those on the regional district board, but serve as two different entities under two different acts.

The request was denied after lengthy discussion and debate, a good part of which centred around frustration over inter-governmental communication between the provincial health ministry and the regional district.

The funding request was to be directed towards leasehold improvements for the new urgent primary care centre Interior Health opened in a phased approach on March 31, and represented the regional district’s 40 per cent share of the care centre’s total cost of $2.5 million.

A second part of the request also asked the board to designate the centre a hospital, a procedure required by protocol.

Meadows apologized for coming to the board for the funding after the centre had already opened, blaming the provincial health ministry for restricting Interior Health’s communications with the regional district, and not allowing Interior Health to advise the board of the request earlier.

He told the board he “would have wanted to come to the regional district before the centre opened but timing wouldn’t work,” while Interior Health Corporate Director Business Operations Dan Goughour said the health authority tried to send a letter for the request to the regional district.

Meadows said urgent primary care centres already in operation in Kelowna, West Kelowna and Vernon were also subject to similar timing issues and hospital designation requests, and had complied.

When asked what might happen if the funding request was overturned by the board, Meadows jokingly replied he would hold “a very big bake sale,” but later said he wasn’t sure how things would proceed if the funds weren’t made available.

Hospital board Chair and Penticton Director Judy Sentes sympathized with Meadows, saying “the ministry holds your hands on when things can and can’t be announced. You were aware but couldn’t say anything because of protocol.”

Keremeos Director Manfred Bauer said it was: “A very strange way of doing business, to build a palace and hope the population will pay for it afterwards. It’s usually done the other way around.”

Meadows told the board it was only seeing the “top of the iceberg.” He said there was great pressure to get the clinic for Penticton as there was competition with another community. He said doctor agreements and ministry approval was needed into late January prior to the centre opening its doors at the end of March.

“If we had our way, it would have been on the books earlier, but we are under the direction of the ministry,” Meadows said.

Several directors, including Penticton director Katie Robinson and Summerland director Doug Holmes said they were not impressed with the provincial health authority’s lack of inclusion of the regional district in decision making, Holmes asking if Interior Health had a commitment to provide urgent primary care centres in smaller regional district communities.

Meadows told the board the vision was for the centres to be set up all over the South Okanagan, with an announcement of locations coming soon.

“Some things you have to hold your breath on, but our community is getting these investments. I can’t argue the frustrations the board is experiencing, but we have this investment, one of only four in the Interior Health region,” Meadows said.

The board eventually voted in favour of designating the centre a hospital, but against providing the $1 million in funding, a result board Chair Karla Kozakevich called “interesting.”

RDOS Chief Adminstrative Officer Bill Newell said today the board’s recourse, if any is taken, would be to have hospital board chair Judy Sentes bring the motion back for reconsideration at the next meeting.

Calls for comment by INFOnews.ca to the Ministry of Health and Interior Health were not returned by deadline.

Yesterday’s meeting seemed reminiscent of Penticton council’s recent communication issues with the provincial housing ministry over the planned closure of the city’s emergency winter shelter late last month.

Penticton Director Katie Robinson said today she felt the whole board was upset at the way the request had been handled by the health ministry, not just Penticton board members.

“I honestly don’t know what’s going on with the health ministry. There’s just no communication whatsoever with anybody. They just seem to be doing their own thing at their own time,” she said.

She agreed the situation was similar to the issues the City of Penticton was experiencing with the provincial housing ministry over closure of the city’s emergency shelter at the end of March.

“It’s not just the provincial housing minister, it’s the Minister of Health as well. I just don’t understand what the secrecy is all about. I said at the meeting yesterday, we can go in camera with them and communicate,” she said.

She said it was disrespectful to local governments to act this way.


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