The Kootenay Boundary region will see 33 new practitioners hired over the next three years. Photo: Black Press file photo

Health ministry to hire 33 new practitioners for Kootenay Boundary

Over 15,000 people in the region don’t have access to a primary care provider

A $5.3-million program to bring 33 full-time health-care providers to the Kootenay Boundary over the next three years was announced Tuesday by the Ministry of Health.

The program will set up a network to serve approximately 15,250 people who don’t have a primary care provider in the Nelson, Trail, Castlegar, Nakusp, Kaslo, Grand Forks and Salmo areas.

Dr. Shelina Musaji, a physician lead with the Kootenay Boundary Division of Family Practice, said Thursday the program was first pitched to the health ministry in 2018. The network, she said, will help patients find appropriate services.

“Primary care providers such as family doctors and nurse practitioners are able to attach with patients and then allow those patients to have access to a family practitioner,” said Musaji.

Three family physicians, five nurse practitioners, six registered nurses, nine social workers, seven allied health professionals, one clinical pharmacist and two Indigenous health co-ordinators will be hired.

The improved services in the program include better access to maternity care, chronic disease and pain management services, mental health and substance-use resources, care for families, seniors and people with complex health issues, and those living in poverty.

Health minister Adrian Dix said in a statement that the model of team-based care is the future of health care in B.C.

“By establishing new primary care networks, as part of our primary care strategy, we are strengthening health care supports to address long-standing gaps in everyday health care for people in B.C., including those living in the Kootenay Boundary region,” said Dix.

The network will also hire Indigenous health co-ordinators after consultation with the Kootenay Boundary Aboriginal Services Collaborative, which includes the Ktunaxa Nation, the Okanagan Nation Alliance, Métis Nation, and the Circle of Indigenous Nations Society. Culturally safe care for Indigenous peoples is among the goals for the new program.

“I wish to offer congratulations to the provincial government, the health districts and to the social investment sector for accomplishing this outstanding partnership,” said Sophie Pierre, Elder and former Chief of the Ktunaxa Nation, in a statement.

“When First Nations and Métis benefit from such collaboration, all people of the Province benefit.”

Related: Interior Health asking attendees of large youth gathering near Castlegar to self-monitor for COVID-19 symptoms

@tyler_harper | tyler.harper@nelsonstar.com

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