The B.C. Government has announced that it will be introducing 22 expanded primary care networks to improve access to health care across the province, including the East Kootenay.

Adrian Dix, Minister of Health said the addition will bring in a significant number of health care employees.

“Together, these networks will recruit approximately 470 health care providers, including doctors, nurse practitioners and allied health professionals,” said Dix. “They’re expected to connect several hundred thousand people to a local primary care team or provider.”

Dix added that the networks will provide better access to chronic disease and pain management and improved access to mental health and substance abuse services.

Services will be culturally appropriate for indigenous communities, inclusive for vulnerable people with complex health care needs, and comprehensive for people living in poverty.

“All of these supports come with provincial funding of approximately $78.54-million once the networks are fully established. This is really good news for tens of thousands of people who are struggling to get the care they need,” said Dix.

In rural areas, such as the East Kootenay, local physicians have worked together to put forward proposals to improve health care across the region.

Dix touted the quality of care he feels B.C. has to offer and expanding it will give more people access to that quality of care. He said the overdose crisis and COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of an effective public health care system.

“I think the reason why British Columbians have the best outcomes from COVID-19 in North America, the lowest mortality rates, for a jurisdiction our size, is because of the quality of our health care professionals,” explained Dix. “It’s because of public health care, and we need to use that public health care system to better our communities in the decades to come.”

Dix added that the additional networks will provide care to people across the province of all ages with a variety of health care needs to get access to doctors, nurses, or other kinds of support.