Health minister keeps community waiting, wondering

Editorial

The future of long-term care on the Sunshine Coast is a hot topic that has created sharp divisions in the community – but one thing both sides agree on is that decisive action from provincial Health Minister Adrian Dix is long overdue.

In a letter to the minister published in this week’s paper, Sunshine Coast doctors are again sounding the alarm over the “extreme overcrowding” at Sechelt Hospital caused by the continued critical shortage of long-term care beds.

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The doctors point out that it’s been 20 months since Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) signed a contract with the Trellis Group to build and operate a new long-term care facility that would provide 25 additional beds, yet “not a thing has been accomplished.” The letter urges Dix and his ministry to intervene and “give direction to VCH to act now” and implement the Trellis contract.

The doctors’ plea comes just over a month after staunch opponents of the Trellis deal wrote Dix to express their dismay over his ministry’s handling of the issue, including the ongoing “exclusion of stakeholders from the decision-making process.”

Saying there were “strong indications” that Dix’s ministry was negotiating with VCH and Trellis to establish a public-private partnership, the group Protect Public Health Care – Sunshine Coast told the minister: “To state our position categorically, public-private partnership is just another name for privatization... Our community has spoken clearly in favour of public care and will regard the continued involvement of Trellis as a betrayal of our interests.”

There are several ways this impasse could end: a Trellis facility in Sechelt to replace Shorncliffe and Totem Lodge, as originally announced by VCH in June 2016; a Trellis facility in Gibsons instead to replace the Sechelt care homes; a reinvestment in the publicly owned and operated facilities in the form of renovations or a new build; a combination of any of the above.

After attempts since October to set up an interview with Dix on this issue, we got a statement from his ministry earlier this month: “We understand Trellis continues to explore various options to meet the future residential care needs on the Sunshine Coast. This is a complex situation given the diversity of views within the community and it is important that any decision be made thoughtfully and with a thorough and diligent review of all options.”

All that sounds fine, but it’s old news now. What this community needs is a decision.

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