Councillors in Gibsons have joined Sunshine Coast doctors in pressing Health Minister Adrian Dix for action on long-term care.
In a letter to Dix, copied to Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH), MLA Nicholas Simons and Coast Reporter, deputy mayor Silas White says the Town is “offering VCH a solution to address long-term care now, not another proposal susceptible to more unacceptable delays,” with a site that’s “shovel-ready to address this crisis.”
The letter also says the Town is “prepared to work with Vancouver Coastal Health to issue a development permit for construction of any facility offering publicly funded, long-term care to start within two months.”
The Gibsons letter follows one from the doctors of the Sunshine Coast Division of Family Practice that highlighted the impact on hospital operations of a continuing shortage of long-term care beds. The doctors urged Dix and VCH to move forward with the 2016 contract with Trellis Seniors Services to build a new facility. “That contract should be implemented now to ensure an immediate build. Time is of the essence,” the doctors’ letter said.
After delays getting approvals for a Sechelt site, Trellis made a deal with the Town of Gibsons last July to buy land beside Christenson Village on Shaw Road at a price of $2.24 million.
White said the Town’s letter to Dix was drafted at the suggestion of Mayor Wayne Rowe, who was on vacation when the letter was sent, but represents the consensus opinion of council that the Gibsons site is the best option for moving forward quickly.
Much of the letter also attempts to counter arguments that Gibsons is too far away from the bulk of the Coast’s population or the hospital.
“Close to half the Sunshine Coast’s population lives within a 12-minute drive to Shaw Road. Sechelt and the shíshálh Nation are about a 25-minute drive. If some of the concerns about the proximity for relatives/friends of residents were applied to other rural long-term care facilities in B.C., your health authorities would need to ensure that a facility were built in every municipality and First Nation territory in the province. Accordingly, we don’t feel this is a fair standard to be applied to the Sunshine Coast only,” the letter says.
“We also shouldn’t forget the reality that many visits and supports to residents in fact come from off-Coast, via the Langdale ferry, including by healthcare professionals and services from the Lower Mainland. Furthermore, although the Sechelt/shíshálh Hospital is 20 minutes from Gibsons, and actually does need to be accessed on an emergency basis as well as to visit patients and professionals, its proximity is typically not expressed as a problem for Gibsons area residents.”
After councillors met with Dix at the Union of BC Municipalities meeting last October, Rowe said he was concerned politics was getting in the way of looking after the Coast’s seniors.
White said it’s become clear that the government is hearing differing views from Sunshine Coasters, and weighing those views could be behind the delays as well as the NDP government’s desire to protect workers at the existing, fully public facilities.
“One thing that was made clear by the minister was the government’s concern about the workers – their wages and benefits and job security – in a situation where they’d be moving from VCH to a private service provider,” White said. “We share those concerns as well. Those are people that live in our community. We support the explorations that the minister is doing in trying to make sure that those working conditions are maintained.”
White also said the Town’s bottom line is the same as the Division of Family Practice’s. “This is becoming a dire emergency situation,” White said. “It’s causing brutal consequences in our hospital where beds are being used for long-term care because there’s nowhere else to put these people.”