Kelowna West MLA Ben Stewart talked health care with members of the Westside Health Network Society at their annual general meeting last Friday.
Stewart said he was surprised while out talking to people during last year’s byelection campaign to hear people asking about what was happening with the urgent-care facility on the Westside.
Stewart told the group that an announcement was pending on an urgent-care centre in one of two locations, either on the Westside or somewhere in downtown Kelowna.
While many people thought the urgent care centre would be a mini hospital, Stewart said the urgent care centre the government is announcing is likely going to be a 12-person unit that will provide a range of services for people who are either without a family doctor or without the ability to get medical access. The centre will take the pressure off the emergency room at Kelowna General Hospital.
Stewart also talked about technology such as Babylon, a free app people can download to their phone for after-hours care.
“That’s where I think the future’s going to be,” he said.
Doctors are available to do an over-the-phone consultation.
“It can do about 70 % of what the doctor’s office can provide,” said Stewart. “It’s easy. It’s free.”
Stewart discussed Primary Care Networks, a clinical network of local primary care service providers.
Stewart said over the summer he will be talking to the medical community in and around the Westside as well as one or two public consultations to find out what services are lacking on the Westside.
While the government said the earliest they can see something happening on the Westside is 12 months, Stewart said he thought that was optimistic as doctors have to agree on a vision for the Westside.
Stewart also said B.C. Ambulance Services has a higher level of training for some ambulance paramedics, so they don’t have to take patients to the hospital to do certain things.
They can respond quickly, work with the hospital and relay what is needed and deal with it in-home rather than people having to be transported and sit around in emergency.
Stewart said there are about 120 such paramedics around the province in more remote areas.
One concern for the Westside Health Network Society is seniors getting to medical appointments in Kelowna.
HandyDART can take anywhere from two to three hours to get to an appointment and taxi fare is expensive with a trip from Smith Creek to Glenmore costing $100.
Volunteers with the Westside Health Network will drive seniors to appointments and is under increasing pressure. Last year they did 900 drives, while this year they have done close to 1,500.