Interior Health officials, doctors, health care professionals local politicans and others gathered Friday at the official opening of the new Seniors Health and Wellness Centre in Kelowna.—Image credit: Alistair Waters.

New one-stop shop for seniors health opens in Kelowna

New Seniors Health and Wellness Clinic brings a collaborative approach to helping seniors.

Interior Health has opened, in Kelowna, what it hopes will be the first of many seniors’ health and wellness centres across the health region.

The specialized centre helps seniors with frailty and age-related medical conditions through a multi-disciplinary approach and access to specialist services.

“The level of support offered through the new model will help seniors age in place while reducing emergency department visits, preventing hospital admissions, and avoiding premature placement in long term care facilities,” said Interior Health board chairman John O’Fee in a news release.

With a growing, aging population, services need to keep up with increased demand and the new centre, located in the Cottonwoods Care Centre on Ethel Street in Kelowna, further strengthens seniors care by drawing on experts and team members from a number of different disciplines to care for clients, says Interior health. Working together, these teams help to promote an individual’s independence by stabilizing their age-related symptoms and connecting them with appropriate services and supports in the community.

The centre, two-years in the planning, has been up and running since the start of the year but held an official opening Friday. It has already dealt with 207 clients.

It brings together medical professionals such as a geriatrician—a professional who was not here until the clinic was established—general practitioner doctors, nurses, pharmacists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, social workers, rehabilitation assistants, speech language pathologists, dietitians and respiratory therapists.

Referrals are currently being may be made through family doctors, nurse practitioners or Kelowna General Hospital.

According to government statistics, more than 22 per cent of residents in the Interior Health region are now over 65 years of age and that number is growing.

According to IH CEO Chris Mazurkewich, the region is already where several other areas of the province are not expected to be until 2025 when it comes to the seniors’ population. That is why IH is hoping the success of the Kelowna centre, and another one slated to open in Kamloops in three weeks, will allow it to roll out similar centres in other cities across the region in the future.

Services at the new centre in Kelowna include a multidisciplinary assessment, short-term therapeutic interventions and access to a geriatrician and family doctors with a special interest in geriatrics. The collaborative team provides targeted assessment and planning services for the centre’sclients,says IH.

In addition to health assessment and treatments, the centre will also provide education and connections to other community services to help seniors access programs promoting health and wellness, helping them live independently for as long as possible.

The Kelowna centre is the result of the work of a team of partners who came together in the Central Okanagan to identify health gaps, priority areas and possible solutions. Called the Local Action Team, the group included represents from the Ministry of Health, Central Okanagan Division of Family Practice, Interior Health, Patient Voices Network, the United Way and Baptist Housing. Seniors care ranked high on the list of priorities, and specialized services and increased collaboration were identified as important areas to focus on.

“The Ministry of Health asked the Central Okanagan Division of Family Practice and Interior Health to work together toward excellence in seniors’ care in our communities,” said Dr. Gayle Klammer, Central Okanagan Division of Family Practice member, co-chairwoman of the Local Action Team and Implementation Team and a Kelowna GP

The Central Okanagan Division of Family Practice is a non-profit society governed by local family practice physicians who identify areas to improve care of patients and work with partners towards solutions and results. It is part of the Divisions of Family Practice initiative, funded by the province and the doctors of B.C.

“The Seniors Health and Wellness Centre is the first step, offering comprehensive assessment and short-term follow-up by a team including physicians and allied health professionals.”

“We strive to create seamless care with community seniors’ services,” added Dr. Michele Thomasse, a member of the Local Action Team and the Central Okanagan Division. “The centre’s multidisciplinary approach enables us to leverage the expertise of the geriatricians and family physicians working together at the centre to increase capacity and improve patient outcomes.

The aim to provide seniors with the best possible assessments and care in a team environment and develop additional knowledge and skills within the family physician community while working closely with the geriatrician and other team members.

“It’s really is getting double the bang for the buck,” said Klammer Friday during a ceremony at the new centre.

It will cost $900,000 a year to operate and replaces the IH’s old gerontology program.

The Seniors Health and Wellness Centre model used in Kelowna will also be introduced in Kamloops next month as part of the Northills Centre Interior Health Primary and Community Care Services.

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