Mayor Maja Tait is hopeful that improvements to Sooke’s health care situation may be on the way.
At present, while it is only 30 kilometres from Sooke to Victoria General Hospital, residents wishing to access medical care face the prospect of navigating a daunting highway that can challenge for the most skillful of drivers. And a serious accident on the highway can back up traffic and make it impassable for hours.
At the same time, public transportation to the hospital is far too limited to be an effective option for someone with a serious medical problem.
It’s a situation that Tait acknowledges as being unacceptable, particularly given the fact that Sooke is a rapidly growing community that deserves a reasonable level of health care.
It’s why Tait established and chaired the Sooke Primary Health Care Services Working Group, and why she has been working tirelessly to lobby the provincial government to help address the problem.
“This is the first time that we have managed to get all the stakeholders to the table. Up to April of this year, that hadn’t happened, which made it nearly impossible to even hope that anything would happen,” said Tait.
Tait explained that this effort dates back to 2005 when local physicians tried to stimulate some progress in the district’s health care. Other groups followed, but it seemed that no change was likely to happen.
With the installation of a new government at the provincial level, that intransigence seems to have faded.
“We’re looking at a number of different models, but the fact that we have Ministry representatives, the CRD, the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) and local physicians all pulling in the same direction gives me hope that changes are possible. We just don’t know what that change is going to look like just yet,” explained Tait.
On Friday (Oct.13) the group met with representatives of the Oceanside Project, an urgent care facility that was opened in Parksville in 2014 after that community’s 25-year effort to improve their health care situation.
“We can learn from other models–see what worked for them and what was not practical. There are a lot of moving parts here and we have to consider all the options,” said Tait.
She said the group has now established a steering committee to streamline the process while still involving all the partners in the health care puzzle.
“We really have two timelines at play here. On the short term we’re looking at things like an increase in the number of local doctors or even nurse practitioners. But we realize that is just a band-aid solution,” said Tait.
“The longer term effort may be for something along the lines of an urgent care centre, but that will likely be a few years down the road. But it will happen. I’m confident of that.”