Stethoscope

Investing public money into a non-profit health centre would pay off in better access to doctors in Summerland, local politicians heard Monday.

Following a presentation from its potential tenant, the South Okanagan Similkameen Division of Family Practice, council voted unanimously to order a feasibility study of the project.

Under the terms of a proposed partnership, the District of Summerland would cover the estimated $8 million cost of constructing the new facility, which it would then lease to the SOS Division of Family Practice.

The division would look after day-to-day operations and recover its costs from the health professionals who work there.

Tracy St. Claire, executive director of the SOS Division of Family Practice, said the office would replicate the Ponderosa Primary Care Centre, which opened in late 2019 in Penticton to help attract and retain doctors.

“What we’re hearing are newer physicians aren’t looking to run their own businesses. Some physicians that are looking to retire don’t want to run their own businesses any longer. So we’re looking for an alternate model that’s still respecting the independence and autonomy of physicians in their clinical roles,” explained St. Claire.

While the health centre was originally proposed to form a key part of a new Summerland aquatic and fitness facility, which will be the subject of an upcoming feasibility study, council decided Monday to do a separate study for the health centre so it could be co-located or built on a different site entirely.

Coun. Doug Holmes encouraged the project steering committee to move as quickly as possible, after his own family was recently attached to a new doctor in Penticton. He fears more residents will be forced to leave the community to see a doctor unless something is done to lure physicians to Summerland.

“I really see this as something urgent,” said Holmes.