News

Municipality looks to transfer health centre operations

Regional non-profit could help recruit doctors, expand services
 | October 26, 2022
STEPS would be responsible for delivering primary health services and supporting staff. File photo.

Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality (SPMRM) is taking steps towards transferring operations of the Sun Peaks Community Health Centre to a regional non-profit operator.

During a council meeting on Oct. 12, council endorsed transferring operations to Supporting Team Excellence with Patients Society (STEPS) and directed administration to finalize the terms of an agreement. 

STEPS is based in Kamloops and is the largest non-profit operator in the region. Shane Bourke, SPMRM’s chief administrative officer, said STEPS could help ensure the health centre is sustainable and expand services with the hopes of eventually offering urgent care seven days a week.

“Those are things that STEPS already do in Kamloops,” Bourke said. “They already run family practice, but they also run an urgent care facility. So that would be the long term goal.”

The health centre opened in 2017 after years of community fundraising and private donations. The first priority was initially residents on the mountain, but it began accepting Kamloops residents if they were unable to find a family doctor in the city. Now, the health centre is at capacity for new patients and is asking existing patients to book routine appointments and refill prescriptions at least three weeks in advance.

The clinic is in the process of trying to recruit physicians, but has faced challenges due to the shortage of healthcare providers across the province. Bourke said STEPS would be able to assist with recruiting.

“Just due to our small scale, we don’t have the resources to be a full-time recruiter for doctors,” Bourke said. “STEPS has the capacity and the scale to work on recruitment much more extensively than we can.”

Under this model, STEPS would be responsible for delivering primary health services and supporting staff. The non-profit would need to provide an annual update to the municipality.

SPMRM would maintain ownership of the building and equipment, which would be leased to STEPS and would allow the municipality to take back operations if the collaboration is unsuccessful. 

Sun Peaks Health Association would still be responsible for fundraising for specific initiatives, such as future equipment. A representative from the association would also be nominated to sit on the STEPS board as an ex-officio member.

Previously, there had been discussions about eventually transferring operations to Interior Health, but Bourke said moving forward with STEPS makes the most sense right now.

“Who runs it I’m not sure is as important as looking to who best could provide those services,” he said. “Right now, we believe STEPS is the best alternative.”

Bourke said the contracts are now being finalized and should be brought to council in a few months for approval, with a target date for the full transition of April 2023.

“There will be more information for patients as we go forward, but the plan is that this is a seamless transition,” Bourke said. “STEPS will take over our operations and patients won’t notice a difference. And hopefully in the long run we’ll be able to provide additional services.”

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