Saturday, March 18, 2023 | SOOKE, BC [Updated 7 pm]
by Mary P Brooke | Island Social Trends
It was a pretty low-key moment for a former BC premier just two weeks before leaving elected politics.
John Horgan – still MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca until March 31, 2023 — spoke briefly a few times at the podium (in and around other speakers and during the media question period) on a patch of raw land on a sunny but cool breezy morning in Sooke.
But that was the day before St Patrick’s Day, and for Horgan that’s been a lucky time zone over the years. He used that day on the calendar for when he became leader of the BC NDP in 2014, and again in 2020 to help launch the journey of the unknown into the COVID pandemic.
But this past Thursday, on the ground in his much-loved Sooke, he was surrounded by the pulse of some key people who have supported him the longest in that neck of the woods, including First Nations Elder Shirley Alphonse and Sooke Mayor Maja Tait.
Also present for the significant health care facility announcement in Sooke was Health Minister Adrian Dix — a long-time Horgan compatriot and friend.
Sooke unique needs:
Sooke will be getting the health-care facility it has long hoped for. It’s not the hospital that residents have been hankering for over many decades, and it’s not just a boost to the local (and only) doctor-owned medical clinic in town as happened in 2019.
“There was significant government investment in the expansion on that site (in 2019),” said Dix on Thursday.
But the new one will be bigger, and will add “other health professionals right away”, said Health Minister Dix today.
It’s a combination of services for a unique solution where local doctors own the current clinic and there are town-isolation aspects due to its remote location (while hinged to the Greater Victoria region), all of that compounded by a fast-growing population due to relative housing affordability.
“Yes, the (privately-owned) West Coast Family Medical Clinic will be bringing their service here,” said Dix. “Having full-service family practice here is the core of what people want in the community, and room for that expansion which was limited at the mall,” said Dix, referring to the 2019 supports for the doctor-owned clinic that is currently located in the Evergreen Shopping Centre.
Family practice payment model:
“It’s our hope that the doctors there will join our new payment plan which focuses on patients and their care,” said Dix about the physicians at the West Coast Family Medical Centre. The new physicians payment plan came into effect between The Doctors of BC and the provincial government effective February 1, 2023.
“Those are their decisions. But if you look across BC (there has been) wide scale adoption of that new payment model,” the health minister said. “With that agreement we recognize the value of family practice,” said Dix.
He said that for years BC was not “at the high end” on providing adequate payment for family practice, but “now that issue has been solved”.
State of the art:
This new health-care facility arrangement in Sooke will include a full suite of options. It will have one of those ‘state of the art’ BC Urgent Primary Care Centre (UPCC) clinics, as well as a new place for the Sooke docs to hang their hat, and spaces for a range of locally-generated health organizations including the Sooke Regional Community Health Network (SRCHN).
“There will be more doctors, more nurse practitioners, and also more mental health services as well as an Indigenous health coordinator,” said Dix. He said that along with the current complement of local doctors there will be urgent care “for getting answers quickly” including through diagnostic services.
“It’s a unique model, and I think you’ll see this model in many more places as we move forward,” said Dix.
The new facility will be community-governed and operated by SRCHN, and is expected to join the provincial rostering system to ensure patient care continuity and attachment initiative announced in 2022 as part of the new payment model for family physicians.
The new centre will be part of the Western Communities Primary Care Network and provide extended hours for urgent and non-emergency health care and better same-day access to primary care to help meet community demand.
The team of clinical providers is expected to include family physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, mental-health and substance-use workers and other allied health providers.
The doctors from the West Coast Family Medical Clinic “will have better space here, newer space here, and they will be part and obviously key supporters of the urgent care parts of it that will evolve with nurses and nurse practitioners as well,” said Dix.
Until now, for many Sooke residents any sort of urgent health need has often meant a drive down Highway 14 to either an overworked drop-in clinic in Colwood or further into View Royal to the Victoria General Health emergency department.
The town of Sooke has long suffered in many ways due to the one-way-in/one-way-out access along the provincial highway. Dix himself noted how when he and Horgan were in Sooke to make a previous health-care announcement that they were both stuck in town for hours (in April 2019) due to a tree having fallen across Highway 14, preventing all traffic flow between Sooke and Greater Victoria.
Many vehicle crashes and bouts of bad weather (and once a summer forest fire) have caused Highway 14 to be closed in both directions for hours.
Island Health involvement:
Fully involved in all of this is the Vancouver Island Health Authority (aka Island Health); both the Island Health Board Chair Leah Hollins and CEO Kathy MacNeil were there in Sooke on Thursday for the announcement, as well as long-time Sooke-based Island Health nurse Mary Dunn who helped spearhead the new development.
Sooke Region Communities Health Network:
“For many years, we have been collaborating with the District of Sooke, the South Island Division of Family Practice, the West Coast Family Medical Clinic and other local organizations to establish a community health centre in Sooke,” said Mary Dunn, president, Sooke Region Communities Health Network.
“We are excited to have the opportunity to expand community health services for everyone in the Sooke region,” said Dunn.
Sooke Family Resource Society:
There on the bright morning outdoors were Sooke Family Resource Society (SFRS) Executive Director Nicky Logins, with her daughter Ebony Logins (a former District of Sooke Councillor who now sits as a trustee on the Sooke School District 62 board of education), and Ebony’s 2.5-month old son Derek. Now three generations, likely, of community-driven leadership influencers, says the proud grandmother.
The SFRS facility is right across the street on Wadams Way from where the first shovel went into the ground on Thursday, toward development of the upcoming Sooke health facility (set to open in 2027).
Most of the rest of District of Sooke council was there for the big announcement, standing on Lot A on Wadams Way (a piece of District-owned land that presently holds only the Vancouver Island Regional Library Board’s Sooke branch, but where housing and a community square are promoted as being in the works).
Lot A backs onto the Evergreen Shopping Centre.
There on Thursday were District of Sooke Councillors Jeff Bateman, Al Beddows, Dana Lajeunesse, and Tony St Pierre.
Other folks in the crowd included Sooke School District 62 (SD62) Board Chair Ravi Parmar, who is said to be readying to run for the MLA seat in Langford-Juan de Fuca after Horgan retires at month’s end after 18 years in elected provincial politics.
A by-election in Langford-Juan de Fuca as well as one in Vancouver-Mount Pleasant (where former MLA Melanie Mark has resigned) is likely to be called quickly now by Premier David Eby, even possibly ahead of summer hinted Horgan during the Sooke event. Of local note, that would further kickstart a by-election in SD62 if Parmar wins the MLA seat (would likely happen in the fall of this year).
Green for St Patrick’s:
At Horgan’s last hurrah in Sooke, the BC Government staffers wore green and white Victoria Shamrocks-style lacrosse jerseys, as a gentle nod to their former boss.
Introducing the new health facility:
“Improving access to health-care services for people in BC is a key priority for our government,” said John Horgan, MLA for Langford-Juan de Fuca.
“This centre will be critical to meeting the health-care needs of people living in Sooke and surrounding areas, now and in the future, and I am proud that people in the region will soon benefit from being able to access the care they need, close to home,” he said in a news release.
On the ground Horgan was pretty stoked about it… this is one of the major accomplishments for the riding he has nurtured so well for voters over the year, and which has nurtured him back with kindness which will likely have no end. One of his two adult sons lives in Sooke, said Horgan, suggesting he will be around a lot.
Horgan’s politics in Sooke:
Island Social Trends on Thursday purported to the former premier that people in Sooke, Langford and all points in between have been indelibly marked by his progressive politics ‘for the people’.
What was his ‘secret sauce in Sooke’ that he chose to build his political base here? Horgan replied that he doesn’t know how many of the Sooke folks there on Thursday had voted for him over the years, but revealed: “I was invited to help, and I was willing to help.”
Horgan at that point said he got a note this week from Dr Anton Rabien of the West Coast Family Medical Centre saying “thanks for listening, thanks for being part of the journey” for primary health services in Sooke.
“It’s never in my mind been about me. I’ve been reluctant to accept that, and any kind words. But it’s the people, what an honour to serve in a community that is totally committed to helping their neighbours. That’s what Sooke is all about. It was a great place for me to start a public life,” said John Horgan, noting that he started his career as a government worker and had to be somewhat nudged into the public eye. He thought he was not “made for that type of work” but quickly added “it turns out I was wrong”.
“It wasn’t because of anything in me, it was because of all of the people that said ‘you can help us if you listen to us’ and so I listened,” Horgan said at the podium on Thursday.
“And I tried my best, my level best, over the years to take what I heard — whether it be riding the bus to Sooke, whether it be coming to the Fall Fair and finally getting the quilters to let me touch the quilts, these are monumental moments. I was never able to steal any pies. But there’s always the fall fair this year,” he quipped, eliciting laughter from the long-time Sookies.
“I’ve just been blessed to represent the area that’s got extraordinary people that are committed to community. And I’ve benefited from that and I think we all have in one way or another,” said Horgan.
About the facility:
The new facility will combine the upcoming community health centre (CHC) and urgent- and primary-care centre (UPCC) at a future development planned for 6671 Wadams Way (on the locally infamous Lot A).
Once open, the CHC/UPCC centre will consolidate local primary-care services from the doctor-owned West Coast Family Medicine Clinic and other local community services (including Sooke Region Communities Health Network) into a single location, making it easier for people to access the health services they need.
“This will be done by better connecting more people to integrated health-care services in the community, such as primary care, culturally safe supports and mental-health and substance-use services,” it was stated in a BC Health news release on March 16.
“This new integrated health-care facility will connect people in the community to a range of health-care services, including primary care, urgent care and community health services all under one roof,” Dix.
“We need to find solutions for recruitment and retention,” said Horgan on Thursday, about keeping up the complement of doctors and nurses around BC, especially as people in professions are getting older. “We needed to change how we did business,” the former premier said about medical doctors negotiating with the BC Government for ways to do things better. “We are well placed to address these challenges,” said Horgan, noting how everyone in BC learned during the pandemic the importance and necessity of working together to solve challenges.
In Sooke on Thursday, Dix said this will be the 58th such locally-based centre in BC. Not all of them are the full UPCC model as many are customized to local unique needs in communities (such as the one in Sooke which was upgraded in 2019 to a blend of doctor-owned and government-backed).
“Integrating physicians into a community-based primary-care model means more time for patients, more patients accessing health-care services and less administrative burden for practitioners. This is part of our continuing work to build increased and improved access to primary health care for people in Sooke,” said Dix.
Building new relationships with First Nations:
“Building a new health-care facility such as the Sooke CHC/UPCC is more than just bricks and mortar. It’s an opportunity to forge new relationships with us as First Nations neighbours through collaboration, mutual respect and enhanced service,” said Rose Dumont, administrative health co-ordinator, T’Sou-ke First Nation, in a news release.
“By working together, we all can create a welcoming, culturally sensitive environment that promotes healing, wellness, and improved health outcomes for all members of our community,” she said.
More Sooke health facility details:
Government News Release March 16, 2023 on the Sooke Health Facility
===== RELATED ARTICLES by ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Replacing Horgan & Mark: two key BC by-elections this year (Feb 24, 2023)
John Horgan wraps up 18 years in BC elected politics (Feb 9, 2023)
Gridlock on Highway 14 while Premier in Sooke (April 27, 2019)
Highway 14 closed west of Sooke due to downed trees (Feb 10, 2019)
===== ABOUT ISLAND SOCIAL TRENDS:
Island Social Trends is a professional news portal at islandsocialtrends.ca .
Fully online since mid-2020, Island Social Trends emerged from the extensive groundwork of previous print publications in the west shore, all similarly published by Brookeline Publishing House Inc: MapleLine Magazine (2008-2010), Sooke Voice News (2011-2013), and West Shore Voice News (2014-2020).
Since 2008, journalist, photojournalist and editor Mary P Brooke has taken a socioeconomic lens to news analysis about the west shore and south Vancouver Island region, including BC provincial news, and national news impacts.
Ms Brooke has been covering news of School District 62 (SD62) at the board and committee level, including attending nearly all of their meetings since 2014. Mary P Brooke was a school trustee candidate (SD62 Belmont Zone – Langford, Colwood, Metchosin and Highlands) in the October 2022 election, as a service to community.