Opinion

Stewart: The future West Kelowna health centre

One of the most rewarding roles an MLA can play is helping get things done.

Quite often it’s behind the scenes, and sometimes it’s part of a long-term strategy, with few immediate results or headlines.

But it’s one of the most important aspects of the job.

For example, some West Kelowna residents have been calling for a Westbank Urgent Care Centre to be established.

To its proponents, an urgent care centre is a natural idea.

It’s been talked about for some time—well before the District of West Kelowna was incorporated four years ago. Prior to that, Interior Health went so far as to acquire land in West Kelowna.

But when a hypothetical Westbank Urgent Care Centre was first discussed, West Kelowna and the entire Okanagan was a very different place.

Since 2003, Kelowna General Hospital  has seen tremendous investment and expansion.

This continues in May, with the opening of the new Centennial Tower and East Pandosy buildings. All told, KGH will have five new operating rooms, equipped with state-of-the-art facilities and equipment.

West Kelowna is well served for emergency services.

It’s worth pointing out that KGH is one of just two tertiary care hospitals run by Interior Health.

When it comes to things like cardiac services, the Okanagan will have a similar level of service and facilities as major centres like Vancouver and Victoria.

In January, the West Kelowna Residents’ Association and I co-hosted a standing-room-only public meeting that featured Interior Health chief executive officer Dr. Robert Halpenny.

First and foremost, we want to work with the community to find a solution that works. Whatever it becomes, the Interior Health site is a key component of the district’s neighbourhood and downtown plans.

One of the things we discussed was to make sure Interior Health and the district do all the necessary legwork for any future facility to succeed.

One way that might happen sooner would be for West Kelowna to consider finding some private sector involvement.

That doesn’t mean a private health clinic, but help in creating a good business plan.

As Dr. Halpenny notes, there is no “build it and they will come” approach to creating a successful health centre.

That applies to any health facility, be it emergency, outpatient, or lab services.

Just because a new facility is constructed, doctors and lab facilities are under no obligation to set up shop there.

Part of the process must involve consulting with local medical practitioners—everyone from family doctors and specialists down to radiologists and lab technicians.

It’s vital to find out firsthand what they’re looking for. With that in mind, any new facility needs a business plan, and an idea of which physicians and services would be interested in relocating.

I agree with Dr. Halpenny that a community health centre would be far more appropriate for West Kelowna.  But we also have to make sure that would work for our existing facilities and personnel.

Because when it comes to getting things done, you have to think long-term.

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