Support growing for palliative care facility on the West Shore

Dave Saunders says facilities ‘bursting at the seams’

When Dave Saunders examines the state of palliative care facilities in the West Shore, he sees a service that’s bursting at the seams.

He sees elderly being put on wait lists to get into the Priory, a residential care facility at 567 Goldstream Ave., and being unable to find end-of-life care in the communities in which they live.

It’s a heart-breaking sight for Saunders and one the well-known philanthropist is hoping to change in the near future.

Saunders is spearheading an initiative to bring a palliative care facility to residents in the western communities.

“The current facility just doesn’t fit the need. People want to have their end of life with dignity. They don’t want to move out of the area that they have family established in and they simply want to move on to the next stage with dignity,” Saunders said.

“We need it in the West Shore for the dignity of people that live here, but also for people that want to move here … If I have to shake the apple tree to make some apples fall, then so be it.”

It’s a project that began years ago when Saunders was serving as mayor of the City of Colwood. He was approached by an elderly couple who couldn’t get into the Priory and questioned why there weren’t more palliative care facilities on the West Shore. From there, he looked into the situation further and found current services were “bursting at the seams.”

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The Capital Regional District (CRD) has been aware of the general lack of palliative care services in the region for some time. A few years ago, the CRD looked to replace the Oak Bay Lodge and Mount Tolmie Hospital, which had both reached the end of their lives. However, after Oak Bay council rejected plans to replace the lodge with a new six-storey, $80-million building, the CRD decided to look elsewhere.

Saanich, Colwood and Langford expressed early interest, however, in the end, the former Blanshard Elementary School in Quadra Village was selected as the site for a 320-bed seniors’ facility. Known as the Summit, it is expected to be complete in 2019.

Over the years, Saunders said that decision has created a funnel affect – funnelling traffic and care into the southern most portion of the Island and creating more traffic congestion.

Now Saunders hopes to establish another facility, similar to the Priory, with roughly 140 beds for those who are incapacitated or nearing end of their life on the West Shore.

Recently, he has been gathering support from local politicians at all levels of government, various community groups, such as the West Shore Chamber of Commerce, the Langford Legion and local realtors, among others.

“I saw the need with the changing of the guard at the provincial level and the changing atmosphere at the CRD. I just saw an avenue to resurrect what I was trying to accomplish way back in the day,” he said, noting there are five potential locations where such a facility could go, but wouldn’t say where specifically.

“We just want to see this happen in the West Shore … What we’re envisioning is that this be a community initiative, so not one single person will be the lead on it. It started by an elderly couple who approached a politician way back in the day.”

In the coming months, Saunders hopes to develop a business plan and organize meetings with the province and local municipalities to garner support and potentially make it an election issue.

Tim Orr, director of residential services with Island Health, said more hospice beds are on the way. “Island Health is developing a plan to add more hospice beds in the South Island region including the West Shore over the next two years. We are aware of the need for more hospice beds in the western communities,” he said in a statement, noting there is one wait list for the region and people are assigned based on the priority of their health care needs. “Our work is in alignment with the Ministry of Health’s plan to double hospice beds by 2020.”

Residents who want to write letters of support to the cause can email Saunders directly at saund@telus.net.

kendra.wong@gold streamgazette.com

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