The Caring Circle has had some major successes- from providing a health care services portal, health programming, a driver program and advocacy work to improve health services on Bowen.
Another related initiative has been the nascent offshoot Community Medical Clinic Society, dedicated to the establishment and maintenance of a primary health care facility. Sounds simple, but getting a clinic up and running will require hard work, vision, money and persistence. Fortunately, some great models have been developed by similar communities.
Gabriola now has a free standing clinic (http://www.ghcs.ca/) that provides stellar service on that island- one with a similar population and distance to a regional hospital. Even some of the smaller islands- Pender and Denman come to mind, have clinics or ‘centres’.
The need is patently obvious. Anyone requiring secondary or off-hours medical attention has to go to the North Shore. Transport can be problematic and potentially life-threatening. Many seniors, but also pregnant women and others feel quite vulnerable on Bowen.
There is a tight group, consisting of volunteer board members, advisors, and practitioners which have been carefully crafting a course of action. Jaye Routledge chairs the group’s monthly general and board meetings. Colleen O’Neil, Bud Massender, Bruce Wallace, Dr. Sue Schloegel regularly attend. A constitution has been written, charitable status is being pursued, architects hounded for free advice, and some serious number crunching undertaken.
Immediate next steps include conducting a Needs Assessment Survey, something vital to obtaining any Coastal Health or other funding. We will all be asked to complete the survey when it is launched. Another area of interest is in lobbying B.C.Ambulance to be included in a pilot Community Paramedicine Program, wherein ambulance personnel would have additional training that would allow them to visit vulnerable residents in their homes to make sure they’re getting the support they need. It might involve medication oversight, vital signs monitoring and home living risk assessment. This increases the capacity of the ambulance crews who are often sitting at the station waiting for call outs. Caring Circle, The Medical Clinic Society, and the Municipality are all advocating for this program to be given a trial here on Bowen Island.
What is emerging is a process with decision points that will hopefully lead to a clinic within a couple of years. Clearly, there is sensitivity to competing capital needs- for a firehall, community centre, library enhancements, sewer and water. The strategy moving forward has always been to seek synergies. Hence the proposal that the Clinic be part of Municipal Land (Lot 2) development.
But other options are being examined, from renting an existing interim space, to having a sponsor purchase and renovate a building suitable for clinic needs, to appeals to the philanthropic community to build a structure from the ground up. Fundraising will only begin once a strong consensus has been built. Already, some other health care providers have expressed some interest in working on Bowen if a health centre is opened, and we will have better success retaining and supporting our Bowen Island physicians if we have an integrated health centre on Bowen. Any initiative which improves access to primary care on Bowen is something to applaud.
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