A new medical clinic in Kelowna and the expansion of another in Lake Country is allowing residents to sign up for a family doctor.
Turtle Bay Medical Clinic is expanding in Lake Country, taking over empty space in the Turtle Bay Crossing complex. Once completed, the facility will house nine doctors, operations manager Kiffer Walker said. The current space has room for five.
Two of the doctors at the Lake Country location recently moved to the new clinic on Hillside Drive in Kelowna. Currently, four physicians are located at the Hillside Medical Clinic, which opened in June, and a fifth will be added in September, Walker said.
“We’ve been really lucky, we’ve been able to recruit 10 physicians in the last year which is unheard of in B.C.,” he said.
“We have a different way of operating which allows them to not have to worry about running a business… we make it easy for them, they show up and get to be a doctor.”
The renovations for Turtle Bay Medical will be completed by the end of September.
The Lake Country Family Practice is also getting another doctor in August, who is accepting patients, said administrative officer Marion Clarke.
In the past, she said it hasn’t been easy to get doctors in Lake Country as they aren’t looking for a standard practice.
She attributed the number of new doctors in the Central Okanagan to the lifestyle of the Okanagan, and how the doctors don’t have to worry about the administrative side of the practice while working at the family practice.
Dr. Eric Cadesky, president of Doctors of BC, agrees the Okanagan lifestyle may be one of the reasons why doctors are finding the location desirable.
“Having travelled to the Okanagan and knowing it’s one of the most beautiful parts of the world, and the doctors that are there are hard working, and dedicated and there’s an excellent community of doctors,” he said.
With the aging population, the demands on doctors are increasing. The increase in treatment options is another factor that is contributing to a shortage in doctors Canada-wide, he said.
He said there is a need for innovation moving forward, with a balance between the public getting access to care and the doctors spending the most of their time doing their job.
New doctors in the area is good news for Interior Health, as it means patients won’t have to rely on the Kelowna General Hospital’s emergency department, said Central Okanagan Community Administrator Deborah Preston, with Interior Health.
“We want people to have consistent access to a doctor in the community who knows them and their specific needs. Additional physicians in Kelowna is good news for local residents and for the health care system,” she said in a statement.
“In general, we would encourage individuals to contact their family physician or visit a walk-in clinic prior to visiting the emergency department if their situation is not an emergency,” she said.
The NDP government also launched its new primary healthcare plan in May, with Premier John Horgan promising it will deliver faster and improved access to healthcare.
“The kind of care people need, and how it’s delivered, has to change. It’s no longer as simple as a doctor-patient relationship,” said Horgan. “We need to be looking forward and providing team-based care that better meets the needs of British Columbians.”
The plan includes the NDP government’s election promise of 10 new urgent primary care centres to be set up over the next year and help take the pressure of hospital emergency rooms. Those will help people who don’t have a family doctor or nurse practitioner, as well as operate on weekends and hours outside of clinics.
The government will also look to expand the teleheath service that many patients in rural communities rely on to speak to a specialist, as well as to new digital home health monitoring systems.
— With files from Ashley Wadhwani