A tragic situation unfolded last weekend when a longtime Sooke resident was forced to spend his final days miles away from home.
The man, the senior member of a fifth-generation Sooke family, died at the Selkirk Place Care Home in Victoria, far from the community he loved.
He was moved to the Victoria care home because no bed was available for him at Ayre Manor and in his final months his wife, who is in her 80s, found it difficult to visit him as she was dealing with her own medical issues.
It’s a situation Sandy Pednault, chair of the Sooke Elderly Citizen’s Housing Society, has seen too often.
She estimates that at any given time about 30 Sooke residents are housed in a combination of hospital beds and extended care facilities in Victoria. These are people Pednault feels deserve a chance to stay in their own community in the latter years of their lives, and she’s expressed frustration with the political process that has seen her society stymied in its attempts to build additional senior care capacity in Sooke.
She said the quest to secure funding may be inching closer to reality as society representatives were recently granted a meeting with Tim Orr, Island Health’s director of residential services. In the past, Orr was on record stating Island Health’s priorities were in the central and northern part of the Island.
In 2017, he said funding for Sooke “may be years” away.
That situation may have started to shift slightly, although the shift is far from seismic in nature.
“The meeting with Tim Orr was fairly positive. They’re now saying that the southern end of Vancouver Island is an area that they are now considering,” Pednault said.
“We’ve been shovel ready since 2013 and are now looking at the third renewal of our development permit, but until VIHA (Island Health) commits to funding the beds, we can’t get the mortgage money to build,” Pednault said.
(According to Mayor Maja Tait, that permit has been granted and a letter sent to the Minister of Health)
While Island Health does not provide funds for the construction of additional facilities, those funds are available through B.C. Housing on an interim basis and then through a traditional bank mortgage. The financing depends on Island Health making a commitment to fund the additional beds.
“To date, Island Health has not committed to funding this new capacity. However, we will consider their desire to build more beds (in Sooke) in our overall bed planning strategy,” stated Island Health spokesperson Cheryl Bloxham in a written statement.
Sooke News Mirror messages left with Tim Orr’s office and received a response after the online version of this article had been posted.
“Our bed planning process is ongoing but I can’t make any commitments (for additional beds in Sooke) until the Board makes that decision,” said Orr.
“Ayre Manor is advocating for their community, and so they should (but) there is a growing need for beds all over the Island.”
While Orr suggested that the South Island may be in line for additional beds and pointed to additions in Duncan and the Comox Valley, he stopped well short of making any commitment to Sooke. He also declined to speculate on when the Sooke region might be in line for funding.
“It is so frustrating that we have these people who are forced to move into Victoria where they are away from their families,” Pednault said.
“The people we have at Ayre Manor get to see their families often. Some family members come in to help with lunches and with the gardening on the grounds, so the residents know that family is there for them. Compare that to being transferred to a hospital bed in Victoria.”
Pednault added that moving Sooke residents to care in Victoria doesn’t save Island Health any money on an individual basis since those beds outside the community are still funded.
“Give us the funding and let us keep our elderly in our own community,” she said.
Mayor Maja Tait said the municipality will keep renewing the permit for the planned development, and she’s supportive of Ayre Manor’s continuing quest to provide local care.
“It’s important for people to have regular visits, and it only makes sense to keep them in our community,” Tait said.
Premier John Horgan, the region’s MLA, was unavailable for comment.