Many Islanders have been working hard to bring the vision of the Bowen Island Community Health Centre to life. To date, the focus has been on researching the health needs of residents, fundraising, community collaboration, planning, and now construction.
As excitement and momentum builds, it’s a good time to remind Bowen Islanders of the services people will be able to access when the new health centre opens for patients in spring 2023, as well as those we hope to offer as the facility grows and matures.
The Bowen Island Community Health Centre is built on the Community Health Centre (CHC) model outlined in the Ministry of Health Primary Care Strategy announced in 2018. We are seeking new capital and operational funding for our facility within the scope of that policy.
Our case for funding under this policy is that Bowen is designated a rural community, that we have obvious geographic barriers in accessing healthcare, and that we have particular challenges overcoming those barriers to care because of vulnerabilities arising from ageing, mental health, disability and social disadvantage.
In 2015 a health care survey of Bowen revealed 41 per cent of residents thought their health to be at risk because they lived on Bowen; 51 per cent delayed seeking care because we are poorly resourced; 45 per cent thought delaying care made things worse; and 25 per cent of respondents had considered moving off island for better access to primary care.
All of this adds up to significant challenges accessing health care.
The Bowen Island Community Health Centre is being developed in response to these needs and concerns, while also working to connect Bowen Island residents to on-island health professionals. Seventy-eight per cent of Bowen Islanders are either registered with physicians off-island or are “unattached” and go off-island for health care. This is, in part, because Bowen has the equivalent of only one family practitioner. In any case, the majority do not have access to health care when it is needed.
This picture contrasts with what our neighbours enjoy. Gabriola Island, with a similar population and ferry distance to a general hospital, has a highly successful community health centre, which includes a lab service five days a week. Salt Spring Island, albeit more than twice as large in population than Bowen, has a community hospital and health centre, and currently family practitioners there are advertising to receive new patients.
Bowen Islanders should not have to go off-island to access primary care. The Bowen Island Community Health Centre aims to ensure health security for everyone, and to allow those with increasing and complex health needs associated with ageing to age in place.
To meet the needs of our population, to fill the current service gaps, and to make Bowen attractive to new health care professionals, the Bowen Island Community Health Centre is planning to offer a range of health care services, the majority of which will be covered by MSP. They are:
- An integrated multi-disciplinary primary care team with 2-3 additional family practitioners, including family physicians and nurse practitioners.
- A primary care services that would have capacity for walk-in, same day urgent care and after hours on-call support – for all people on island – regardless of whether they are attached to the primary care practice or not.
- Allied health supports including in-practice nursing.
- Social work/mental health counselling.
- A full-service dental practice.
- A point of care lab collection service.
- Community space to host health education and visiting specialists.
- Space for other complementary practitioners.
Not all these services will be available on opening day but as time goes on, this is the vision for expanded and enhanced service delivery the health centre hopes to provide.
By co-locating the health professionals who manage complex problems under one roof, the goal is to create a better patient experience. The patient will come to see the health centre as a single point of health care access, with one door leading to various professions, all of whom talk and coordinate with each other as needed and when appropriate.
The service we aspire to provide at the new health centre will offer residents a “Medical Home”. The care they receive will be accessible, timely, and comprehensive. It will be there for those with acute and chronic conditions, those with physical and psychological challenges, young and old.
Please continue to follow our progress on Facebook and on our web site (www.bowenhealthcentre.com)
Next Month: Meet our Board — the Bowen residents volunteering a wide range of professional skills and experience to make this vision a reality.