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West Kelowna tabs former IH executive to help with healthcare facility plan

In its bid to get a health care facility in West Kelowna, the municipality has turned to a former high-ranking Interior Health official for help.

The District of West Kelowna announced Thursday afternoon it has contracted retired former IH Okanagan health service area chief operating officer, Joanne Konnert, to help with its ongoing efforts to establish a business case for a primary health care facility on the Westside.

The district said it is hoping to capitalize on Konnert's extensive experience in health care administration to investigate options for such a facility.

Konnert, who at one time was in charge of Kelowna General Hospital as part of her IH duties, will begin working with West Kelowna in September. She  will brings more than 30 years of experience in administrative positions in health care provision to her role with West Kelowna.

“Council is extremely pleased to have Ms. Konnert’s assistance in gaining a good understanding of what options are available to us as we explore our health care needs, and service delivery models, on the Westside,” said Mayor Doug Findlater.

“Council has not veered from our goal of seeing a westside health facility built and, with Ms. Konnert’s expertise, will move one step closer to our vision.”

West Kelowna and Interior Health say they are continuing to work together to investigate options for the possible creation of a primary care facility in the district.

In April, both sides agreed there is considerable background work to be done before any move can be made on the initiative.

Five years ago, IH indicated an urgent care facility on the Westside was a high priority but since then the facility, which would cost between $10 million and $20 million, appears to have dropped down that priority list. IH now says it does not have to money to build it, despite the fact it bought land for the building and had a portion of the property removed from the Agricultural Land Reserve for the project. The land sits at the corner of Elliot and Bering Roads in Westbank.

The district said since it has already had preliminary discussions with third-parties, it will take the lead in exploring options for a third-party partnership, including identifying community stakeholders that may be interested in potential opportunities.

To support the district at this early stage of exploration, Interior Health has provided information compiled by it in recent years to help determine the mix of services the community will require.

The original plan was to provide a facility that would offer day surgeries and other health services but would not be a full-scale hospital with operating rooms.

“We know there is still a long way to go,” said Findlater. “But this is an important step in the right direction, towards the establishment of a business case to build a primary care centre in West Kelowna.

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