Comox Valley Hospital main entrance

Photo Credit: Mike Chouinard / Comox Valley Record

Health Care Coming Closer to Home?

Increased funding should increase reach

Comox Strathcona hospital board considering rural, First Nations grants

The Comox Strathcona Regional Hospital District is updating its strategic plan. They’re considering an increase in the number of grants for local health clinics in rural, remote and First Nations communities. They are also thinking about expanding the number of communities that get grants. 

“There’s three primary topics covered under strategic planning,” deputy James Warren told the board at its latest meeting on March 24.

  • Increasing small community grants to rural, remote and First Nations communities;
  • Looking for some central hub in the Comox Valley for health services; and
  • Establishing a long-term care facility in Campbell River for seniors, which would be designed to alleviate pressure on the acute care beds at the hospital.

But how is all this possible, you may ask? 

Well, the board had agreed to double the amount granted for smaller community sites from $5,000 to $10,000 each. The money has gone to a half dozen communities around NorthIsle: Cortes Health Centre, Gold River Health Centre, Kyuquot Health Centre, Sayward Primary Health Care Clinic, Tahsis Health Centre and Zeballos Health Centre.

So going forward, the plan is to add up to 11 new sites, including communities such as Quadra Island, Denman Island, Hornby Island and some First Nations communities, including the Wachiay Friendship Centre.

“Those discussions are continuing with Island Health,” Warren said.

But before we have too much agreement, there is still an issue of contention.  

Scott McCarten, Island Health’s executive director for capital management and finance projects, spoke about the business case for the long-term care facility for Campbell River. 

This is an issue that some on the board have opposed because they argue it falls outside the mandate of the hospital district board. McCarten says the plan is for a 150-bed facility near the hospital in Campbell River.

“Our hope is that we can submit that to the ministry,” he said.

Brenda Leigh, one of the Strathcona Regional District directors, reiterated her opposition to the proposal.

“I don’t think this board can afford to go into long-term care,” she said, adding their focus should be on hospitals. “It appears the hospital is over-capacity at all times.”

McCarten’s rebuttal is that the facility would take pressure off the system as many people who should be in long-term care are taking up beds in the area’s hospitals. He added the cost per new bed in a long-term facility is about one-eighth the cost of a bed in a hospital.

“It is a much more economical way to increase hospital capacity,” he said.

As far as the health care hub for the Comox Valley, there was some concern about how costly it might be to find a new building to house various health care services, though McCarten explained a major reason for considering a hub was the need to replace the aging infrastructure at sites in the Comox Valley.

“We do need to renovate and replace.”