BRITISH COLUMBIA

B.C. First Nation still plans to open luxury hospital for tourists, Canadians

12/17/2014 07:47 EST | Updated 02/16/2015 05:59 EST
KELOWNA, B.C. - Plans for a for-profit hospital on Westbank First Nation land in West Kelowna, B.C., in are still alive despite years of apparent inactivity, says the band's leader.

Chief Robert Louie said members continue to be consulted to gain support for the project.

“It's still a few years away,” Louie said Wednesday at the opening of a $9.3-million road project, which would help provide direct access to the hospital's proposed location overlooking Okanagan Lake.

A "key issue" for band council is informing its 650 members about all aspects of the proposed hospital, Louie said.

In 2012, the band announced its intention to build what was described as a $125-million luxury hospital aimed at medical tourists and Canadians who want to avoid long waits for procedures and surgeries in the public health-care system.

The hospital would have 300 medical staff, the band said when plans were announced. It said it would provide the land and partner with a private firm that would finance and operate the hospital.

Questions have been raised about the viability of the proposal, given the Canada Health Act forbids the charging of fees for medically necessary services. However, the band said the hospital plan was compatible with its self-government status.

“We haven't gone about this lightly," Louie said in April 2012. "We believe there is an opportunity for a community like ours being self-governing to be involved and that nothing in Canada's Health Act would be contravened." (Kelowna Daily Courier)