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Mayors can’t do everything, but Fred’s been doing everything he can. These past four years Fred has been working to address this crisis by:
Physician services in Saanich
Republished from the summer BARA Bugle (Broadmead Resident’s Association, Spring/Summer Newsletter) with minor updates.
Working as the Mayor I’m acutely aware of the need to stay in the municipal lane and focus on the efficient delivery of the core service responsibilities to our residents. That said, I feel the need to weigh in on the family physician shortage and illustrate some successes at the municipal level that will help our residents secure physician care in Saanich.
I believe we all recognize the absence of sufficient family doctors presents a crisis in local health-care. The report by Medimap, shows that in 2021 Victoria had average wait times of 161 minutes for walk in clinics compared to average wait times of 25 minutes across Canada.
More recently, throughout 2022, the local media has reported on long-standing family clinics closing due to a lack of general practitioners. The reasons for the closures include physicians retiring, doctors leaving family practice for other specialties, and doctors relocating from Victoria to less expensive areas. In addition, physicians are simply burning out from work overload as well as the stress resulting from two years of COVID-19. Once a clinic closes, its patients struggle to find a new physician. Too many Saanich residents cannot find a physician. Doctor groups have also been clear that the current fee-for-service model fails to adequately cover the costs they experience in providing a family practice.
The Province is responding with considerable investment into the model for new Urgent and Primary Care Centres to address this physician crisis. Separately the Province is working and investing in solutions to the recruitment and training of new nurses, mental health workers, paramedics and family physicians.
At the Saanich municipal level we have not been idle. Most recently, we worked with Stefan Fletcher, the CEO of RebalanceMD located in Uptown Mall, to expedite permits to expand their medical campus to accommodate an increased number of physicians and improve the patient care experience. Plans include a potential new complement of approximately ten family physicians. If achieved, this would result in one of the largest integrated physician-led medical service campuses in BC.
Recently we were delighted to approve the expansion of the Luther Court Community Health Centre. With primary care services available since March 16, 2022, the full renovation of its 260-square-metre clinic provides capacity for nine full-time equivalent clinical health-care providers. These nine additional health-care workers will join Luther Court’s staff in providing primary comprehensive and longitudinal health-care geared towards seniors and people living with mental health and substance use conditions.
Since election in 2018, Saanich Council has encouraged applications for large multi-unit developments to include options for new medical / healthcare campuses and daycare. The recently approved University Heights project at Shelbourne and McKenzie is an example where plans for 600+ units of rental units include a dedicated daycare plus a medical-physio-dental health campus. The Metah project proposed in Royal Oak at 4291 Glanford is under deliberation at Council. Now approved, this will provide 251 rental units with a new medical/pharmacy campus for 8-12 physicians as well as a dedicated daycare. A fifth example, yet to come to council, is the Nicola proposal at 1555 McKenzie, which along with more rental housing, also features a pharmacy/physician campus.
More broadly on housing and living costs, we’re working to improve the delivery of our housing supply. Recently we approved the Uptown Douglas Plan to further develop the Uptown-Douglas area as a vibrant regional centre balancing diverse housing, employment and recreational opportunities. We’ve also shifted our local area plans to focus the vast majority of new housing density along our Centres, Corridors and Villages – and away from single-family home neighbourhoods. The full range of “missing middle” housing is also being addressed. Improving our internal processes, we’re following up on all 12 recommendations from the KPMG review of our planning processes to improve efficiencies, move to digital files, reduce costly times, avoid duplications, and provide more clarity and certainty to residents and applications.
Working with the BC Urban Mayors Caucus, Saanich added your voice to the call on the federal government for greater transparency and certainty in the fiscal transfers to municipalities. We have also raised a call to the federal and provincial governments regarding accepting professional qualifications from across Canada and internationally. Additionally, the regional Mayors have been proactively discussing issues around the shortage of physicians with the Province since the election 2018. At our regional meeting with the minister in June we pushed the Mayor’s perspective that the province needs to adequately address the critical shortage of doctors.
Fred Haynes, Ph. D.