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NDP hails expansion of South Okanagan, Similkameen Primary Care Network

Premier David Eby Wednesday announced expansion Wednesday with Health Minister Dix, MLA Russell
South Okanagan and Similkameen Primary Care Network is adding six more staff, but it is not clear yet when they will become available following Wednesday’s announcement by Premier David Eby in Oliver. (Black Press Media file photo)

Premier David Eby Wednesday (May 29) hails the pending expansion of the South Okanagan and Similkameen Primary Care Network as a response to local health care needs, but it is not clear yet when the full-time positions will be in place.

“Primary care networks mean that additional health care workers are on deck just for you and your family with the care that you need,” he said. “People who live in rural communities deserve high-quality health care close to where they live,” Eby added.

Eby was speaking at Oliver’s South Okanagan General Hospital, where B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and Roly Russell, MLA for Boundary-Similkameen, joined him. Russell also serves as Parliamentary Secretary for Rural Development.

PNCs connect patients with family physicians, nurse practitioners and other health professionals with patients and the South Okanagan and Similkameen PNC is among 79 such networks across B.C. It launched in 2019 and its current complement is about 36 full-time medical staff.

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“That 87 per cent of our hiring done and this includes doctors and nurse practitioners and social workers and dietitians,” Dix said.

As of March 31, government was funding South Okanagan and Similkameen for just under 42 full-time positions. But neither Dix nor government’s release identified when the new positions would be in place. Black Press Media has reached out to Dix’s ministry for additional information.

As of May 2024, the South Okanagan and Similkameen has attached just under 22,600 individuals to primary care providers.

Both Eby and Dix framed the expansion of the South Okanagan and Similkameen PNC as part of ongoing efforts to train and attract more health care workers.

Russell said primary care networks not only help provide health care, but also serve communities in other ways.

“Primary care is at the heart of much we can lean on to get people to actually stay in our communities and help us get to that place of thriving,” he said.

Annual funding for the operation of the facility will top $6.8 million once it has reached its full staffing level.

Oliver Mayor Martin Johansen welcomed Wednesday’s announcement.

“Approval of the Rural Growth Plan and expansion of the Primary Care Network for the South Okanagan Similkameen is exciting news,” he said. “More people getting access to health care closer to home is a priority and a much-appreciated investment in our rural communities.”

Wolf Depner

About the Author: Wolf Depner

I joined the national team with Black Press Media in 2023 from the Peninsula News Review, where I had reported on Vancouver Island's Saanich Peninsula since 2019.
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