Janet Costa and her husband Sam were vacationing in Mexico several years ago when Sam suffered a major heart attack.
He would be flown back to the Okanagan to be treated at Kelowna General Hospital, and thankfully would fully recover. The experience itself, however, awakened a new desire within Janet, to help patients better navigate the health-care system. Once the couple’s health scare was over, she found her way to volunteering with the Patient Voices Network and then applied to be on the Central Okanagan Patient Advisory Committee.
“Because I was a health-care worker before I retired, I knew who to call and how to access care for my husband,” says Janet. “But I thought, ‘what about other people who may not know how to navigate the system?’ That’s why I got involved.”
As a member of the Patient Advisory Committee, Janet and the other members engaged in planning for a number of initiatives, including the establishment of an Urgent and Primary Care Centre (UPCC) in West Kelowna, which opened in the fall of 2020. It was the fifth such centre to be opened within Interior Health, joining UPCCs in Kamloops, Kelowna, Vernon and Castlegar. A sixth has now opened in Penticton.
UPCCs offer urgent primary care—providing an alternative to using an emergency department when the patient doesn’t need emergency care. They also work to connnect patients to a family doctor or nurse practitioner, and offer services to under-served populations. UPCCs are tailored to best meet the population’s needs, as determined in collaboration with community partners such as physicians, health-care partners and patients.
In the planning stages for the West Kelowna UPCC, Janet and her fellow Patient Advisory Committee members had some recommendations.
“We thought it was a great idea,” she says. “People that work during the day and can’t get to their own doctors will still have access to health-care without having to go to the emergency room, which seems to be where people end up if these urgent centres are not available. We really wanted the centre to be available for under-served populations. One of our members had experience with people who were experiencing homelessness and knew what can happen to people in this population, so we wanted to make this very available for them as well.”
A team of general practitioners, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, social worker, physiotherapists and medical office assistants work together to support patient’s care in UPCCs. The West Kelowna UPCC is expected to provide care for more than 27,000 patient visits annually.
“I think this is great,” says Janet of the addition of the addition of the West Kelowna UPCC to the area. “West Kelowna has gone a long time without something of this nature. I think it will be a huge boost to the community.”