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Bowen celebrates completion of new Health Centre

Bowen Island Community Health Centre will open this month

An opening ceremony for the Bowen Island Community Health Centre was held on Monday.

While it’s still a few weeks away from the official April 29 opening, members of the Health Centre and the community were joined by provincial health minister Adrian Dix at the Miller Road facility to mark an achievement years in the making. The centre’s offerings will enhance primary care access for Islanders significantly both upon opening and over the coming years.

“We’re doing something that I think is remarkable, something that’s going to attract health care professionals here, something that’s going to bring people more care and better care… It is amazing and I am very proud of this community,” said Dix.

In fact the centre has already attracted several of those professionals to be part of its team, including Dr. Lindsay Downey, Dr. Stephanie Shorter, and nurse practitioner Laura FitzGerald, who were all in the crowd. A focus on team-based care is at the core of the centre’s identity, and when fully staffed will also include nurses, counsellors, social workers, a dietician and physiotherapist, a dental practice, and the new home of LifeLabs.

Health Centre Foundation president Tim Rhodes was emotional while recounting the efforts made over the past decade to make this day possible. “Ten years ago the decision was made that a health centre was crucial to providing on-island access to health care services that most communities take for granted. There was no plan. There was no money. There was no land. Frankly you really had no idea what you were taking on,” said Rhodes to Health Centre Foundation members who were there since the inception of the project, including Colleen O’Neil and Dr. Lloyd Purdy.

“But you took the first step, and with uncanny synchronicity, you stepped up to provide the expertise we needed when we needed it. Your passion and determination created this reality,” says Rhodes.

O’Neil received particular praise for her fundraising efforts, which served as a massive driver for the centre’s success. Overall the Foundation raised $8.6 million through contributions from more than 550 families. Along with the province’s $3.1 million in funding it was enough to bring the project over the finish line. O’Neill will continue at the centre as a community health worker, a role she is joined in by Megan Smith and Matt Smith.

It takes a big team to make a new health centre a reality. / Alex Kurial

Bowen’s existing doctors, Matt Blackwood and Susanne Schloegl, are also transferring to the new centre, with Schloegl scheduled for retirement at the end of May. “The Bowen Island Community Health Centre represents an innovative model of team-based care with primary care services collaborating with Allied Health care providers, which has been community inspired and governed. Our goal is not only limited to dealing with what is the matter with you, but we really want to know what matters to you, and provide that level of service," said Blackwood.

“Our whole team considers it a privilege to work in this new building, and with each other, serving the health care needs of Bowen Island,” added Blackwood.

“I think the advantage is obvious in terms of the variety and types of care you need,” said Dix on the team-based care approach, noting his own experiences working with dieticians, and the province’s push toward ensuring nurse practitioners play a more central role in primary care.

“What we’ve done here… is come together to say we’re going to build excellent team-based health care here in the community. It’s going to be attractive to doctors long after the fundraising is a memory, and the work and construction are done. We’re going to be able to attract people long-term to this community,” said the minister.

The Health Centre totals more than 10,000 square feet over two levels and will operate on an annual budget of $2.5 million. Opening hours will be from 8 am to 8 pm Monday to Friday. While there isn’t a dedicated emergency room – residents are still advised to call 911 for treatment in the case of an emergency – the centre is equipped to treat some injuries or infections that need urgent care.

Anyone who wishes to become a patient at the Health Centre can do so through the provincial Health Connect Registry or by calling 811. Sign-ups can’t be made by calling the centre. Existing patients can find more information on appointments by calling 604-947-9986, or by visiting the centre’s new website.