The long and sometimes frustrating journey to improved health care services in Sooke took an important step forward with the announcement of the Sooke and Juan de Fuca Health Foundation.
“We’ve been working on this for a year and a half, and have just received our charitable tax status so now we hope that we’ll get in our first set of donations before the end of the tax year,” said Rick Robinson, board co-chair.
“Now we’re waiting on a major announcement from the government that we hope is going to be responsive to the proposals that went into the report by Island Health.”
That announcement was expected this month but is delayed until January.
The report to which Robinson referred has called for a new regional health centre in Sookebuilt with the support of the Capital Regional District, the provincial Health Ministry and Island Health.
In future years, the foundation will look broadly at all other health-related needs in the region, and public consultation will be important in helping the board understand the priorities of the community.
“What’s needed right now are more physicians as well as nurse practitioners, support staff, nurses and all the staff needed to provide a well-rounded health care facility. Thirty-five per cent of Sooke residents don’t now have a regular family doctor,” Robinson said.
“In a broader sense, we’re also interested in community centre proposals, senior services, and child and youth services. Essentially, we hope to have a well-rounded health-care facility in the community that can address health and quality of life for all ages.”
The foundation’s role is to raise funds through appeals to the public and large corporate and business donors.
Robinson said the ideal situation is to establish an interest-bearing fund that can then be utilized to help equip the health-care facility with those pieces of equipment and services that are not funded at the government level.
In the coming months, foundation board members will be reaching out to all of the communities in the area: East Sooke, Sooke, Otter Point, Shirley, and Port Renfrew, in order to raise awareness, listen to local priorities and enlist support for the health-care venture.
The board will also be creating a fundraising plan supported by a website, social media outreach, and valuable partnerships with local businesses, organizations and community members.
“This has been a huge issue that we have been working on with the mayor, but now we’re getting much closer to having a centre in Sooke,” Robinson said.
He added that while the initial centre would likely be housed at Evergreen Centre the long-term plan is to have a new clinic constructed, perhaps on Lot A in Sooke.
“That was certainly the preference that was expressed at a recent charrette regarding Lot A. The location would be ideal for Sooke residents.”
More information about the foundation launch will be posted in the new year. For more information on the foundation and how to volunteer or make a donation, please contact the foundation by email at SookeJDFHealthFoundation@shaw.ca.