The Columbia Shuswap Regional District board adopted a service area establishment bylaw that will have residents of Electoral Area F support operation of the North Shuswap Health Centre via taxation. (File photo)

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District board adopted a service area establishment bylaw that will have residents of Electoral Area F support operation of the North Shuswap Health Centre via taxation. (File photo)

CSRD adopts bylaw to fund operation of North Shuswap Health Centre via taxation

Resident questions validity of petitions, raises concern around doctor’s departure

  • Sep. 29, 2022 4:30 p.m.

The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) board voted to adopt a bylaw that will assist with the ongoing provision of medical services in the North Shuswap.

At its Sept. 22 meeting, the board gave unanimous approval to a service area establishment bylaw that will have residents of Electoral Area F support operation of the North Shuswap Health Centre via taxation. According to the regional district, this means the average home in Area F with an assessed value of $410,968, could see an additional $25.16 added to their 2023 tax notice.

The board made its decision following completion of an alternative approval process (AAP) through which Electoral Area F residents were given the opportunity to oppose the proposed bylaw.

An AAP requires a reply from 10 per cent of eligible voters to stop the process or require a referendum.

“In this case, the 10 per cent threshold was not achieved, as only 105 elector response forms against the proposal were submitted,” reads a CSRD media release. “The 10 per cent threshold was 284 valid forms.”

The board also made its decision after receiving a citizen-led presentation by Eugene Eklund.

Read more: North Shuswap residents support tax increase for health centre

Read more: Proposed tax agreement would see annual funding for North Shuswap Health Centre

Through a letter to the board, and in his presentation, Eklund, raised concerns around the validity of petitions regarding funding of the health centre. He called the AAP process “biased” and “therefore unethical and possibly illegal.” He also expressed concern regarding advanced knowledge the health centre’s current doctor is leaving.

“This has been known for some time among the insiders,” said Eklund. “I’ve been told that rumours have been floating around for weeks if not months that she was leaving. Why was this kept on the quiet? Why did she keep this on the quiet? Perhaps fraud is too strong a word for it but it certainly is unethical.”

Eklund, who is running against incumbent Jay Simpson to represent Area F in the upcoming election, suggested the bylaw tabled until more information can be gathered and the public properly consulted.

Dr. Domino Bucarelli submitted a letter to the CSRD, stating the North Shuswap Health Centre was not aware they would be relocating to Kelowna when the AAP submission was put through.

Simpson said it is unfortunate Bucarelli is leaving, but having a thriving practice in place with patients will make it easier to attract a doctor.

“They know that this place works, they know that the community is behind them, they know that the population of the North Shuswap will support them,” said Simpson.

Town of Golden director Caleb Moss said that while he doesn’t support local government moving into health care, “constituents have the right to petition to their local government for a service we have the right to provide it.” He also defended the AAP process and the transparency of local government in general.

Area C director Paul Demenok told Simpson he was envious of the support in Area F for the health centre.

“Whether it’s 3,000 or 4,000 people, you’ve got thousands of people saying here’s something we want, we want to pay more taxes to get a service,” said Demenok. “And it’s $25 a year in taxes, so you think about that for a second. Could you deliver health care any less expensively to the North Shuswap? And I think the answer is no.”

Simpson said $130,000 is the maximum amount that could be budgeted annually for the health centre.

The final tax contribution is still subject to the development of a service agreement between the CSRD and the non-profit North Shuswap Health Centre Society, explained the CSRD. The funding agreement will become part of each year’s CSRD’s budget deliberations.


lachlan@saobserver.net
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