VIDEO: Vancouver Island team proposing real solutions to B.C.’s family doctor crisis

When it comes to the doctor shortage in British Columbia, local jurisdictions have tended to rely on upper levels of government for answers. After all, the Ministry of Health that oversees the public health-care system is a provincial body.

Dave Saunders is a former Colwood mayor and advocate for not only increased long-term care options on the West Shore but also for embedding public health and wellness strategies into municipal official community plans.

Had more local governments began years ago creating integrated partnerships with their local development, health-care and social planning communities – rather than leaving all things health care to the province or Capital Regional Hospital District – the West Shore, CRD and B.C. might not be in the predicament they find themselves in, he said.

“It’s about the community coming together and building a barn, like we used to in the old days,” Saunders said. “At the end of the day, the community has to start working together to save (the health-care system) and stop these silos working on their own.”

Last week the Saunders Family Foundation delivered a proposal for a Community Healthcare Support (CHS) network pilot project to Premier John Horgan’s office. Saunders hopes to get an audience with the premier, a West Shore MLA, this month to discuss the proposal further.

The foundation is asking the province for $50,000 in seed capital to establish a CHS network on the West Shore to prove the concept and build and refine a project playbook. A community response team led by Makola Housing is already assembled and a number of possible clinic sites have been identified, Saunders said.

While the request to do a pilot project in Colwood or Langford was in part spurred by Saunders’ frustration over what he calls the slow pace of planning and lack of meaningful community involvement in the announced long-term care facility at Royal Bay, the CHS network proposal is designed to create a template workable anywhere in the province, he said.

Saunders sees the CHS concept as a long-term way for communities to help their own cause in terms of attracting, retaining and supporting doctors and other health-care professionals, and creating much-needed facilities.

While major elements of the system are controlled by upper levels of government, such as funding, management, policies and regulations, locally controlled elements – housing and living costs, zoning for medical facilities, commercial space costs and others – present equally big challenges for healthcare providers to overcome.

“The doctors I’ve spoken to it say it does not make any sense to be in business right now with the way the system is structured,” Saunders said. “We’re operating a public health system with private doctors,” who have to cover all their own expenses, from administration to taxes.”

The CHS proposal envisions that a coordinated, integrated effort could lead to lowering the cost of housing for healthcare workers and facility space, a streamlining of municipal policies and procedures to make it easier to locate clinics and other health facilities in the area, and the provision of services to guide health-care professionals through the regulatory process.

More information and the full proposal will soon be available at


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