Regional board agrees to fund Penticton urgent primary care centre | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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Regional board agrees to fund Penticton urgent primary care centre

Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen directors took another look at an Interior Health funding request for Penticton's new urgent primary care centre today.
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Interior Health
May 06, 2021 - 4:16 PM

Fears of centralized health care within the region and anger over a lack of input and consultation drove discussions at the regional board today about whether or not to provide a $1 million dollar Interior Health funding request.

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen hospital board revisited the request today, May 6, originally made at a board meeting on April 15.

Up for further discussion was a one-time capital expense request of $1 million by Interior Health for the new urgent primary care centre at 437 Martin St.

The board turned it down at the last meeting, citing dissatisfaction with the provincial health ministry and Interior Health’s handling of the request, as well as a lack of timely information about the project.

The centre opened its doors on March 31, several days before the funding request was made to the board.

However, a second part of the motion, to apply for hospital status at the clinic, was approved at the April 15 meeting.

Hospital board chair Judy Sentes said it came to her attention several directors still felt uninformed about issues regarding the board’s last vote.

She took the opportunity at today’s meeting to bring the matter back before the board, also seeking to have a letter written to the health ministry and Interior Health expressing the board’s concerns, with a majority of directors in favour of venting their frustrations as the process to the health ministry and region.

The funding question wasn’t as clear to many directors, however.

Director Bob Coyne said the board needed more time and information in order to vote on the funding request.

“They didn’t give us a chance to ask our constituents. They are asking us to make decisions when we don’t have all the information needed. We need to know the big picture, and we’re only getting tidbits,” Coyne said.

Keremeos director Manfred Bauer called the process "unfortunate and painful" but also acknowledged the need to move on.

"I think we have to ask ourselves, for the last three or four years at least we have been talking about primary care and how we can implement it and what needs to be done. If we don’t pay for this, and even so this was very badly done, then what is the alternative in terms of financing future primary care units wherever they are? I hope next time it’s a better process," he said.

Osoyoos director Sue McKortoff expressed fear the ministry would overlook any future investment in primary urgent care centres in the RDOS if the board said no to this funding request.

Summerland director Doug Holmes said the board needed to know more about the "bigger picture."

“Where are all the primary care centres going to go, how much is it going to cost and over how many years are we going to have to pay for it?” he asked.

He said without knowing where other future primary care centres were going, the board could only talk about a centralized primary care centre in Penticton.

Kaleden director Subrina Monteith reiterated her preference for taxpayer consultation on the issue.

“Is this something our taxpayers want? I’m really uncomfortable committing to one, or even if there isn’t any more, further down the road. That would break my heart - communities like Oliver, Osoyoos, Summerland and Princeton, who all deserve the same opportunity. As a regional district, we need to be thinking of the entire region,” she said.

Oliver rural director Rick Knodel said the board had repeatedly turned down the funding request, going back to budget deliberations when the request was even more vague.

“I’m conflicted with the idea we’ve said no to this all the way through the budgeting process and came up no so how many times are we coming back to this? It’s setting a bad precedent, and now I’m hearing we have to agree to this because we’re afraid? Since when do we vote on being extorted for money? That is absolutely insane,” Knodel said.

Following a lengthy discussion, a thin majority of the board eventually supported a revisited motion to designate the Martin Street urgent care centre a hospital in addition to providing the $1 million requested funding, in a weighted vote with 54.9 per cent of the directors in favour of the motion.

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