West Shore health care: direct action is needed

Julie Lawlor, West Shore Chamber of Commerce executive director weighs in

On Feb. 28 I attended the third of a series of meetings organized by the South Island Division of Family Practice. Entitled “Primary Health Care in the Western Communities,” this event focused on the lack of doctors in the West Shore and Sooke and was attended by municipal representatives, community partners, doctors and other health-care providers.

You may be wondering why the WestShore Chamber of Commerce would be interested in such an initiative, but the answer is actually pretty straightforward. If business is going to thrive in or move into our region, there are three quality of life components that have to be in place: education, leisure amenities and health care. In the West Shore we’ve had some great improvements of late in educational facilities, and both private non-profit schools and School District 62 are hard at work on plans to accommodate our projected population growth.

In addition to our parks, lakes and waterfront, we have a growing variety of leisure options available in the West Shore. However, when it comes to health care, many people cannot get a family doctor or even access a walk-in clinic because there are more patients requiring treatment than doctors to see them. When you combine a diminishing number of doctors with a population that continues to increase, what was once an inconvenience becomes a crisis. Without wishing to appear overly dramatic, the feedback from practitioners is that the South Island has reached a crisis point and tangible actions need to be taken now.

In spite of this strong message, the conversation at Belmont secondary on the 28th was positive and collaborative. A question we kept coming back to is, “How can we recruit more family doctors to the South Island?” One of the responses was “advertise!” A newly arrived doctor said that in two years he has seen an abundance of advertisements in the family practice journal he receives, but none for southern Vancouver Island. We have a great climate and quality of life and this can differentiate us from other regions.

This suggestion is, of course, only the tip of the iceberg. The cost to practice in this region is high. Doctors typically start their working life with a significant student debt and setting up a practice and office is a further expense that some cannot afford. We heard examples of alternative health care delivery models taking place in the region which could help address these costs.

We also learned that in some areas of the province, doctors are given a financial incentive to settle in remote or rural communities that may otherwise not be attractive to physicians. While much of the South Island can no longer be described as rural or remote, our high cost of living means an incentive to doctors could make as much of a difference in recruiting doctors to our region as it does to other underserviced communities.

And what can you do? If you are concerned about a lack of doctors or other health care professionals in our region, let your municipal officials know. At the meeting, they were very clear that this gives municipalities the evidence they need to lobby the provincial government. And if you can contribute to the solution, please contact Dr. Robin Saunders, board chair of the South Island Division of Family Practice, who can be reached at robinsaunders@sookefamilydocs.com.

Julie Lawlor is executive director of the WestShore Chamber of Commerce. Reach her at jlawlor@westshore.bc.ca or by calling 250-478-1130. For more information on the WestShore Chamber of Commerce, please go to westshore.bc.ca.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: Pat Bay Highway blockade ends three hours later

About 80 people from four major Peninsula First Nations blocking major highway

City of Langford rebrands, announces several projects

‘Langford, where it all happens’ is the City’s new slogan

Pink Shirt Day uplifting for West Shore RCMP

Members of the West Shore RCMP have scheduled a variety of activities with students Feb. 26

No dogs allowed off-leash at Luxton Fairgrounds in Langford

New sign placed by Metchosin Farmers Institute on Wednesday, Feb. 19

Fiddler on the Roof brings timely message to Oak Bay stage

Musical starts Friday in Dave Dunnet Theatre

VIDEO: Province promotes ‘lifting each other up’ on 13th annual Pink Shirt Day in Victoria

Students, MLAs, community members gathered at B.C. Parliament Buildings Wednesday

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of Feb. 25

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

Prepare for new coronavirus like an emergency, health minister advises

About 81,000 people around the world have now become ill with COVID-19

B.C. residents in Wet’suwet’en territory have right to police presence: Public Safety Minister

Nevertheless, Bill Blair said officials remain ‘very anxious’ for the barricades to come down

Winnipeg police investigating graffiti on RCMP and other buildings

Manitoba Justice Minister Cliff Cullen denounced the vandalism

B.C. seniors’ watchdog calls for better oversight after recent problems at Retirement Concepts care homes

‘There is no financial incentive right now to be a good operator’ - Isobel Mackenzie

Trucking company fined $175K for Kootenay creek fuel spill

Decision handed down last Friday in Nelson court

B.C. Liberals call for ban on foreign funds to pipeline protesters

Sierra Club, Wilderness Committee back Coastal GasLink blockades

Most Read