B.C. First Nation plans private hospital

The Westbank First Nation is planning to build a $120-million private hospital on its reserve in the Okanagan. Doctors at the 100-bed facility would perform a wide variety of medical procedures, including heart surgery, but would not provide emergency services.

For-profit facility would serve those who can pay

B.C.'s Westbank First Nation is planning to build a $120-million private hospital on its reserve in the Okanagan.

Chief Robert Louie says the 100-bed facility would operate outside Canada's medicare system, serving any patient willing to pay for private treatment.

Louie believes there's a large market of Canadians who are leaving the country for health care who would be willing to pay for the same services at home.

"If they are desperate to receive that and they can't afford to wait because of medical reasons or various other reasons, they will leave the country and that is exactly what people in Canada are doing," said Louie.

The facility will perform various medical procedures including elective heart surgery, but won't provide emergency services, obstetric or psychiatric care.   

Running hospital will be 'challenging,' says analyst

Health services will conform to federal and provincial health standards, but Louie said the First Nation does not need approval from the province to build and run the hospital.

B.C.'s Ministry of Health said it needs to see details of the hospital from the Westbank First Nation before the ministry can comment on the merits or legality of such a facility.

Private clinics already exist in B.C., such as the Cambie Surgery Centre in Vancouver, but most offer specialized treatment.

Allan Davidson, a health policy analyst at UBC Okanagan, said running a private hospital with a wide range of services will be challenging.

"Hospitals are extremely complex organizations and require very substantial investment," said Davidson.

The Westbank First Nation said the hospital will create approximately 300 jobs, and hopes construction will begin this fall. 

With files from the CBC's Brady Strachan