Why do we need a Community Health Society on Salt Spring?
- Historical shortage of Primary Care Providers
- Lack of space for new practitioners
- Expanded local access improves local health
- Rural communities have unique service delivery problems
- Local and provincial service partners and residents can work together
- Effective solutions will save money and time
- Including community patient voices is important
The Salt Spring Community Health Society was formed to actively seek solutions for local health care needs and to contribute “a grassroots” perspective to future planning and development of those solutions.
Whether on the mainland or on an island, in an inner city neighborhood or down a logging road, one size does not fit all and the population keeps growing and shifting. Needs keep changing. People keep being born, living, aging and dying.
Every community in BC has differing concerns related to delivery and access to health care. All are affected by external factors such as geography, population, demographics, social determinants, finances, staffing and facilities. Considering these factors can contribute to effectively identifying and addressing current and future health needs of a community.
What are the Roadblocks?
Our Gulf Island island home falls right on the cusp between a rural and remote community designation with a population of approx.10,500. It can be said that SSI is considered as rural, but, not remote like communities of the interior or north. However, as an island, the absence of roads connecting SSI to tertiary medical services 24 hours a day is a remote criteria not seen in mainland or Vancouver Island rural communities. Ferries only operate during the day and those between SSI and Southern Vancouver Island operate on two hour intervals.
Salt Spring health services attempt to address the needs of residents, visitors, and transients. We have an excellent community hospital and emergency services and many on the island have a GP, but, a growing significant number do not. Social determinants negatively affecting some persons on Salt Spring are poverty, inadequate housing, food insecurity, social isolation, and lack of transportation. These factors can have a profound negative effect on health and treatment.
The island is promoted as an ideal retirement destination attracting a segment of well educated and financially stable seniors with sophisticated expectations for care. Young families come seeking a rural, healthy environment to raise their children while struggling with a lack of employment and affordable housing. Transients and travelers float into a welcoming community, but, still carry their specific needs which may find them stranded and needing support. The community has responded in a variety of ways including social services, food bank, special needs programs and more but these patients may have trouble navigating the system.
We can do it!
Salt Spring is an energetic unincorporated community with a can-do attitude. Over the years, islanders have built and maintained the Lady Minto Hospital, 3 Fire Halls, a Farmers’ Institute, a recycling centre, 4 community halls, 3 elementary schools, 1 middle school and a new modern high school, a community centre, a youth centre, an arts centre, a public pool, and have replaced an old library with a state of the art library. But, in the last few years, the fragmentation of health services has begun to show as the needs change. Salt Spring needs a Community Health Centre for non- emergency care, additional primary care providers and mental health professionals, and support staff working in a team setting.
We have been losing doctors through attrition and retirement while the number of patients seeking a GP has increased substantially. Approx. 300 patients a week have been estimated to be using the Lady Minto Hospital ER for primary and non-emergency urgent care. Patients can wait a long time to renew a prescription because their GP is gone or they don’t have one. As a temporary solution, sick patients, sometimes with a caregiver, travel with a TAPS Travel Assistance voucher provided and funded by the Ministry of Health to off-island GPs, surgeries and specialists. It is hard on patients.