While a shortage of doctors continues to grow in Parksville Qualicum Beach, a group of dedicated volunteers is taking steps to ensure a solution remains in sight.
The Perfect Storm Group works alongside the Central Island Division of Family Practice, advocating for better healthcare in the PQB region.
Their vision of an ‘Oceanside Campus of Healthcare’ was recently met favourably by Qualicum Beach town council, with the town voting to commit up to $75,000 in funding to cover the cost of a feasibility study and business plan for the facility.
Marlys Diamond is the chair of the Perfect Storm Group. She says the PSG has recently made two presentations to town council about their vision for the facility.
“We’ve been working towards this model that we have envisioned, and the model is patient-centered, served by a multi-disciplinary team of medical specialists,” said Diamond.
“What we’re doing is planning for the future – something that will be sustainable and long term.”
The multi-disciplinary aspect would ideally see physicians and nurse practitioners working together with other medical staff professionals such as physiotherapists, nutritionists, social workers and mental health providers.
The facility would also be community-owned and served by a board of directors, something that Diamond says is key.
Community-owned, multi-disciplinary facilities are one of three potential approaches suggested by B.C. Minister of Health Adrian Dix to ease the issue of a lack of primary care in the province.
The group also wants the campus of healthcare to have an educational component, which would be twofold.
First, they hope to have a space that teaches patients to monitor their own bodies as personal healthcare technology increases.
“All of the inventions daily, there’s something fantastic and new coming out. And it will only get more and more. … And so the way of people looking after themselves is going to change. They’re going to be much more aware of their bodies, and be able to monitor it,” said Diamond.
Second, the group hopes it would foster a residency program for medical professionals. Diamond says the group has reached out to the University of Victoria, University of British Columbia and Vancouver Island University and received letters of support.
Third-year medical students are required in their programs to spend time in a rural area, and Qualicum Beach qualifies as such.
She says medical students doing residencies in Qualicum Beach would also raise awareness amongst medical professionals of the benefits of living in the region.
“The residency program will bring these people into our area, and we’ve known from other places who’ve have had residency programs – people tend to come back if they’ve had a good experience wherever they have their residency program,” said Diamond.
Qualicum Beach Mayor Brian Wiese voted in favour of funding the feasibility study, and says he has believed in the PSG’s vision since day one.
“It was an easy one for me to support when the majority of town need it, and I would say all of town support it,” said Wiese.
“This Perfect Storm Group… what they do is amazing. It’s simply amazing.”
Wiese says that healthcare was a major campaign issue, and that the doctor shortage is a critical problem to solve. He also said that a feasibility study and business plan will help establish the PSG as a society under the Societies Act, so that they can start to receive funding and donations from other sources.
“It’s not something we can wait on and say, ‘we’ll save up some money and get it done.’ My opinion was, let’s give them some money. Let’s get this thing started. There’s lots and lots of people in this town that don’t have a doctor,” said Wiese.
Now that the funding has been approved, the PSG will put together a request for proposal to determine which company is awarded the feasibility study contract.
Diamond says that things won’t change overnight, but that the Division of Family Practice is trying to bridge the gap in the meantime, and she’s hopeful for the future of healthcare in PQB.
“We’ve got all of these people in the community working together – and something good is going to happen. Things are going to change, and it’s going to be for the better,” said Diamond.