“The importance of community health centres in B.C.’s primary care reforms: What the research tells us,” can be read in full at Policy.ca. Photo: Policy.ca

“The importance of community health centres in B.C.’s primary care reforms: What the research tells us,” can be read in full at Policy.ca. Photo: Policy.ca

Lower Columbia network recruiting municipal directors

CHC reps ensured council that no direct operational funding on the municipal level would be required

The Lower Columbia Community Health Centre Network (Network) has earned its nonprofit status and been given the green light to improve the model for primary health care in the Greater Trail area.

Network representatives Dr. Mike Scully, Dr. Tobias Gelber and Ron Parisotto asked Rossland council (Dec. 12) to provide a director for their board in an effort to expedite the process of creating Community Health Centres (CHC) in local municipalities.

The Network representatives point to a recent study that shows an existing primary care crisis in the Lower Columbia with approximately 30 per cent of residents without a family doctor or nurse practitioner.

Dr. Scully, a longtime Rossland physician, noted that access to health care has become a huge issue.

“I feel we need to look at primary health care from a different perspective and that’s how I got involved with this definite community based organization.”

Ron Parisotto briefed council on the progress the Network has made from a governance aspect. Organizers developed a constitution and set of bylaws to guide the Lower Columbia CHC through the process of becoming a not-for-profit society.

The Network is looking for directors from Rossland, Warfield, Trail, Montrose and Fruitvale, Area A and Area B, in addition to representation from the Indigenous community. A membership drive will follow, and three more directors elected for a total of 11.

Dr. Gelber, a recent Rossland resident and “recovering Albertan,” outlined the details of how a CHC would work.

The centres will change how primary care is delivered by creating a not-for-profit clinic with a team-based model of doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, and other providers who work together to care for patients of all ages, abilities, and cultures.

A CHC also integrates with other health care and social services to improve the overall well-being of the community.

“Rather than Mike (Dr. Scully) owning the building and hiring staff and trying to maximize profit and minimize overhead, a small business approach that usually results in a relatively small staff and small square footage,” explained Dr. Gelber. “We are now taking that part away so there is no more administrative portion that physicians have to worry about.

“The proposal we have put in to government is for these larger CHC spaces where physicians become essentially contractors to that; they show up and do what physicians do, which is typically diagnosing and treating an undifferentiated patient.”

The proposed CHC model would include a network of up to four clinics providing care for Rossland, Warfield, Trail, Montrose, Fruitvale and Areas A and B.

The Lower Columbia CHC Network has submitted an application to the province for permission to go ahead with the clinics, but has not yet identified locations or costs.

Following the presentation Coun. Stewart Spooner asked: “Why is it up to a non-profit and municipality to deal with a provincial health care issue?”

Dr. Scully suggested that Interior Health’s focus was not on independent medical clinics but more on hospitals and providing emergency care.

“Interior Health hasn’t been nimble enough to make changes like this,” said Scully. “They’re in the business of running hospitals and managing large constructions, they have not been involved in primary care delivery.”

Scully added that CHC and models like it lay outside the province’s mandate, which is why the problem exists and why the health authority isn’t dealing with it “more quickly and more nimbly.”

“How can we show them the way forward? Eventually we’ll have to get in to bed, as it were, with Interior Health, but we are looking at not having them dictate the terms from the onset.”

Coun. Eliza Boyce asked about the funding split for similar centres and whether municipalities would be responsible for costs.

The CHC representatives ensured council that no direct operational funding on the municipal level would be required.

Council also raised concerns regarding problems with physician/practitioner recruitment and salaries.

“It has been shown, at Ponderosa, a Penticton community health centre, their recruitment has improved since the creation of their model, they are getting people who say, ‘This is where I want to work,’” said Scully.

“We don’t know, but we do believe that this model is a great way going forward, and hopefully what the province offers family practitioners will also be a step in the right direction.”

Coun. Lisa Kwiatkowski confirmed that the representative did not have to be a council member but could come from the community at-large.

Mayor Andy Morel assured that a director would soon be recruited for the Lower Columbia CHC Network.

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