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Posted: September 15, 2020

Primary care network coming to region

Approximately 660 new full-time equivalent health professionals will be part of 22 primary care networks coming soon throughout the province, including in the East Kootenay.

“As part of our primary care strategy, we’re putting networks of health professionals at the centre of our primary care transformation, making life better for everyone in B.C.,” said Adrian Dix, Minister of Health. “By adding 22 more primary care networks to the 17 already announced, more people will benefit from a seamless patient-centred experience that meets their unique health needs.”

Government will provide approximately $110 million in annual funding to the primary care networks once they are fully established. The team of health-care providers will include family physicians, nurse practitioners and health-care professionals, ranging from registered nurses, traditional wellness co-ordinators and cultural safety facilitators to allied health-care professionals, social workers and clinical pharmacists.

These new networks will see community partners, local health-care providers and Indigenous partners work together to ensure patients have access to a full range of team-based primary care services, from maternity to end of life, for all of their day-to-day health-care needs.

In addition, they have been designed to address primary care priorities of individual communities such as:

* providing better access to chronic disease and chronic pain management;

* improving access to mental-health and substance-use services;

* culturally safe and appropriate care for Indigenous peoples;

* helping to co-ordinate services for vulnerable people with complex health issues; and

* providing comprehensive services for people living in poverty.

The primary care networks will be in East Kootenay, Kootenay Boundary, Comox, southern Vancouver Island, Cowichan, Oceanside, White Rock/South Surrey, Chilliwack/Fraser rural, Mission, Central Okanagan, Central Interior rural and Vancouver.

According to a Sept. 15 Ministry of Health media release, the East Kootenay Primary Care Network will work to connect approximately 18,220 patients to a primary care provider over the next four years and will include (approximately):

* 10 FTE family physicians;

* Two FTE nurse practitioners, including one FTE to provide Aboriginal health care;

* 15 FTE registered nurses, including two FTE to support extended hours in Cranbrook and Kimberley and one FTE to provide Aboriginal health care;

* Eight FTE social workers;

* 14 FTE allied health professionals;

* One FTE clinical pharmacist;

* One FTE medical imaging;

* One FTE lab assistant;

* Three FTE Aboriginal health co-ordinators;

* Elders and community champions.

Over the next three to four years, across all networks, the team of health-care providers are expected to see hundreds of thousands of patient visits annually.

“About 17% of people in British Columbia report not having a primary care provider. This means that these people often have to wait long hours in walk-in clinics or at their local emergency departments to get the care they need. Our primary care strategy and the networks are providing a real solution to people so they can get the care they need, closer to home,” Dix said.

Indigenous partners, including community leaders, have been involved in the development of primary care networks, from planning to governance, and advise on the implementation of primary care. Local Elders will be supported to offer traditional knowledge, cultural support, and leadership to their communities. For Indigenous peoples, this will mean more co-ordinated and culturally safe and appropriate primary care support such as traditional healers and Indigenous navigators.

“Partnerships with Aboriginal communities and the division of family practice are foundational to building and sustaining a system of strong, culturally safe health services in the Central Interior Rural region and across Interior Health. By working together with our partner Nations, the Dene, Secwepemic, Tsilhqot’in and Métis communities, we know these primary care networks will reflect the unique cultural and health-care needs of the communities they serve,” said Dr. Doug Cochrane, Interior Health board chair.

The primary care networks are a result of a partnership between the Ministry of Health, local health authorities, Divisions of Family Practice, municipalities and local Indigenous partners.

British Columbia has 39 primary care networks underway, including 12 in Vancouver Coastal, 14 in Fraser Health, five in Island Health, five in Interior Health and one in Northern Health, with more coming.

About 16.9% of British Columbians report not having a primary care provider.

Only 44% of British Columbians are able to get same-day or next-day appointments with their primary care providers.

Lead image: Health Minister Adrian Dix. BC Government photo

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