The Health Centre Foundation answers some of your burning questions

When will the facility open? Why does the foundation need to buy land? And much, much more

Answers to some questions we hear most often-- drop us a line at info@bowenhealthcentre.com or call 604-341-9488 if you have others.

Why did we need to buy the land?

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The Health Centre Foundation has been working for four years on various proposals to secure the right site for Bowen’s health centre. In 2017, a local developer intended to build a multi-use structure for both housing and a health centre. However, council and the developer could not agree on the terms of the agreement. In February of 2018, the foundation approached council with a proposal to provide a portion of Lot 3 of the community lands for a health centre at a nominal long-term lease rate. Later that year, council unanimously approved to move forward with the re-zoning of Lot 3, including 0.142 ha (15,284 sq ft) for a single-use health centre building.

When the new council took office November 2018, the Mayor’s Standing Committee on the Community Lands was established to review the allocations of community lands and the first order of business was the realignment of Lot 3. The Health Centre Foundation provided extensive information to the Committee on the need for a single-use facility, the services planned, the site area requirements, and the lot selection criteria. The decision of the Committee was to offer the foundation 0.08 ha (8,611 sq ft) of land on Lot 3 at a nominal long-term lease rate. While the foundation was grateful for this offer, we were very concerned that the site would not provide the community with enough space for current health service needs, much less for future expansion.

Thankfully, a generous donor stepped forward and offered $300,000 with the suggestion that we offer to purchase .15 ha (16,7146 sq ft) of land on Lot 3. The Municipality was receptive and we now have an executed sale and purchase agreement. 

Isn’t the health centre part of the community centre?

No. The Bowen health centre and the proposed community centre are two completely separate initiatives on two separate sites. The health centre will be owned and operated by the Bowen Island Health Centre Foundation which is a volunteer charitable organization. Capital funding for the construction of the health centre must come from donations from the community. Sources of funds for on-going operating costs will be primarily from tenant rents and programs through Vancouver Coastal Health and Ministry of Health.

The proposed community centre will be owned by the municipality. Capital funding for the construction will be through provincial/federal grants, loans, and philanthropic donations.  On-going operating costs will be provided by the municipality and through grants.

Why do we need a single-use facility?

During discussions with the Mayor’s Standing Committee, it was suggested that the health centre be integrated with another structure on Lot 3, such as housing. In considering this alternative, we reminded the committee of the serious problems this option would create. It would very likely delay the health centre by two to three years as we looked for a private developer who might have interest in such a project, negotiated and concluded acceptable terms for a shared space, and then waited for the developer to negotiate development terms with council  and finally begin the approvals process, which could include rezoning.Critically, a mixed-use proposal would also constrain the space available for the team-based facility we plan and eliminate any potential to expand as our population grows in the decades ahead.

With the prospect of these potential barriers and delays, the committee decided that a single-use facility is the best alternative for the health centre our community urgently needs.  

Why do we need a 10,000 sq ft facility?

The current health services needs of Bowen were evaluated and researched by the Health Services Committee of the Health Centre Foundation. A health services plan was developed with local doctors and other health service professionals and includes expanded primary and urgent care; allied professionals such as physiotherapy and mental health; expanded LifeLabs hours; full-service dental practice; the Caring Circle; other health services such as hearing and vision testing, and chronic disease management including clinics such as diabetic, COPD and asthma; and Vancouver Coastal Health programming such as immunization, nutrition, and early childhood clinics.

A clinical planning specialist, working with the many local health services professionals, used this service plan to determine the room requirements for the health centre and identified the need for a minimum of 6,156 sq ft as of July 2017, and we have sinceincorporated additional area required for the dental practice and physiotherapy room.

This health centre room requirements plan addresses Bowen’s current needs. However, in speaking with other community health centres, their biggest regret was not building their start-up facility with future expansion in mind. The Health Centre Foundation would like to avoid this mistake and build a health centre for now and the future. This approach will save money in the long run because of ever escalating construction costs, plus avoid the need to go back to donors in a few years for additional capital contributions. It also provides the opportunity to increase revenue by leasing space to health care practitioners other than those already identified.  We are seeking to build a two-storey, 10,000 sq ft facility, with a net leasable area of 8,333 sq. ft.  

Will we be able to recruit new doctors?

In Canada there are 1.2 primary care doctors on average per 1,000 population. With a population of 4,000, Bowen is clearly underserved. There’s a growing waiting list of patients for Bowen’s doctors and the demand is clearly there. Our goal is ensuring everyone on Bowen has access to a primary care doctor on Bowen as well as urgent care when they need it. We are designing for three full-time doctors (or two doctors and a nurse practitioner) and in doing so we create the capacity to accommodate as many primary care physicians as we may need well into the future. We have a recruitment committee in place and we will begin advertising soon. Based on the unsolicited interest we’ve already had from a number of doctors, we’re confident we will attract strong candidates. Before Gabriola Island built their health centre, two-thirds of the residents received primary care off-island – now 87 per cent receive primary care on-island. Experience shows people choose to have their doctor close to where they live. While some may decide to stay with their off-island doctor, we believe many more – especially our young families and seniors -- will want to connect with a doctor here on Bowen.

Will local tax dollars be used to build and operate the health centre?

The municipality will not be contributing to the facility’s capital fund. Unlike the planned community centre, the health centre will not be owned by the municipality. The health centre will be owned and operated by the Bowen Island Health Centre Foundation, a non-profit charitable organization dedicated to expanding accessible health services for the residents of and visitors to Bowen Island. We anticipate the sources of funds for on-going operations and equipment needs will come from tenant rents, endowments through the Community Foundation, donations from the community, and grants from Vancouver Coastal Health and the Ministry of Health, as well as tax exemptions from Bowen Island Municipality.

How will we be able to raise $5 million?

The Bowen community is known for its generosity of spirit and funding. Our fundraising target for the facility is $5 million for 10,000 sq. ft. The preliminary construction budget for a health centre is running between $4.5 and $5.5 million and includes architectural costs, site costs, furniture, fixtures, and equipment costs, and costs for surveys, permits, approvals, design, and engineering.  We’ve raised more than $1.2 million even before our current capital campaign began. This health centre belongs to all of us....and we need everyone to give like your health depends on it. Every family, every individual will have the opportunity to use the services of the new health centre. Whether you can give $300 or $300,000 over the next two-to-four years, we want to know your pledge amount as soon as possible so that we can continue to plan and make progress on this much needed initiative. Pledge forms can be found on our website at bowenhealthcentre.com/make-a-pledge/.  

Can we get a mortgage to build the health centre?

While a mortgage for part of the capital budget is an option, we’d rather raise all the funds required to build this facility so we can begin operations with a clean balance sheet, without debt or constraints on our ability to deliver health services to the community. One of our benefits for recruitment is the very reasonable lease rate we plan to offer to tenants, and even a small mortgage would erode this benefit. We’d much rather have the income from operations be reinvested in health services and equipment than in interest payments on a mortgage. That said, “never say never” – if needed we would not ignore any options down the road to get across the finish line and make this project happen.

When will the health centre open?

This depends on how quickly each of us pledges financial commitment to the project. Depending on fundraising, we hope to begin construction in early 2021 and open the new Bowen health centre in 2023.

Established in 2014, the Bowen Island Health Centre Foundation (BIHCF) is a registered charitable organization dedicated to changing the realities of health care availability on Bowen. BIHCF helps expand and broaden the provision of integrated, accessible, and cost-effective health services for residents and visitors of Bowen Island. Visit our website at bowenhealthcentre.com.

 

 

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