By Camille Aubin
[email protected]

The Ministry of Health recently announced a new urgent and primary care centre (UPCC) opening in Cranbrook next November without consulting the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District (KERHD) board of directors.

“That’s twice in the last six months, where the government had made a decision that they’re going to do something and then they come to us (board of KERHD) and say that you have to pay 40 per cent, but they didn’t consult us. They didn’t give us more information,” expressed mayor of Radium Clara Reinhardt and members of KERHD board.

“I am not very impressed,” said Dean McKerracher, KERHD board chair and mayor of Elkford. “We had already heard the announcement from the ministry and from the chair of Interior Health without them consulting with us first to having us know that’s what they were doing before the board actually passed a motion to accept to give the $1.2 million in capital funding to the project.”

UPCC will manage non-life-threatening conditions, as well as help patients connect with a regular primary care provider. In addition, other community support services will be integrated. “Right now, not everyone has a family doctor, or maybe they can’t get an appointment, and the lineup at the emergency is six hours, and if you drive an hour and a half to Cranbrook, you can get in more quickly,” Reinhardt said about the positive impact on the community. 

When fully operational, the medical team at the center is anticipated to include doctors, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, mental wellness clinicians, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, social workers, Aboriginal health coordinators, and a clinical pharmacist.

About 35 per cent of visits to the emergency department of East Kootenay Regional Hospital in 2020-21 were triaged as relatively low acuity. There are alternative settings that can serve these purposes, such as the UPCC.

Health Minister Adrian Dix announced on Aug. 4 that the UPCC will be located at Baker St. mall in Cranbrook. The center will be open seven days a week, 365 days a year, and through extended hours on evenings and weekends.

Interior Health, the Ministry of Health, the East Kootenay Division of Family Practice, and Ktunaxa Nation are collaborating to establish the health centre.

McKerracher voted against the motion with two others directors. “I voted against the motion on the principle that they did not recognize the KERHD board or the 80,600 and some taxpayers that live in our region. The minister didn’t have the decency to notify the board or the taxpayers.”

Approximately $3 million is budgeted for the project, of which $1.8 million will come from Interior Health and $1.2 million to be provided through the KERHD. “The Province brags about their portion of $1.8 million, but they forgot to say that the hospital board and taxpayers of our region we’re going to pay the $1.2 million as well, which is 40 per cent capital,” said McKerracher to the Pioneer. “At the end of the day, if you sit down and think about it, the thousands of taxpayers that live in our region pay the provincial taxes and pay the hospital taxes. Basically, they’re paying 100 per cent of the project.”