By Loreth Beswetherick
A vision for health service delivery in the Sea to Sky Corridor for the next three to 10 years was unveiled to doctors and staff in both Whistler and Pemberton last week but the public will have to wait until March for a glimpse of the master plan.
The document is only in draft form, said Fran Cuthbert, chair of the Sea to Sky Community Health Council, and input from staff is still needed before final review and public release.
The Sea to Sky Community Health Council is spearheading the preparation of the master plan for the region in partnership with the Sea to Sky Regional Hospital District, the Coast Garibaldi Community Health Services Society and the Whistler, Squamish and Pemberton health care foundations. Each organization has a representative that sits on the master plan steering committee. RPG Partnership, a division of KPMG, has been contracted to do the work.
The plan is comprised of two parts, said Cuthbert. The first, and most challenging, was the creation of a health services delivery model that takes into account all health services in the corridor, including acute and continuing care plus public and mental health and population projections for the Sea to Sky communities.
Cuthbert said the goal was to come up with a "footprint" of how health services will be delivered over the next decade.
The second component of the plan involves translating the delivery model into three capital plans that will identify the need for additional space, renovated space and major equipment acquisitions over the next few years. The Sea to Sky CHC must submit its capital plans to the Ministry of Health by June 15, 2000 for approval.
"The idea is once the (master) plan is done, we will look at it as being fairly concrete for the next three years." Cuthbert said the health council will then revisit the master vision and use it as a base from which to prepare capital plans on a three-year cycle.
Many other health regions have embarked on a similar — and in many cases more costly — long-term planning process. This is the first time a master plan has been put together for the Sea to Sky area since the Sea to Sky CHC was mandated by the province three years ago to look after health care needs in the region.
"The Ministry of Health has a new requirement for all health authorities now which is to submit three-year capital plans," said Cuthbert.
The CHC wanted to give local health sector personnel a sneak preview of the plan before going public.
"The staff are the most important part of this process. They are integral and we want to let them have the first kick at this," said Cuthbert. "We want them to have a really good look. See it. Talk about it and give input without them feeling we have sort of overstepped them. We want staff to feel they have meaningful input at this point in time."
Once staff has offered feedback the plan will go back to the steering committee. "Once the committee has had a chance to really go through it, we will be bringing it out. We have a whole communications process outlined."
Garry Watson, who sits on the steering committee as the Whistler Health Care Foundation representative, has said the master plan will help identify what Whistler’s future needs are. He said he hopes it will pave the way for local funding that meets the demands of Whistler’s growing population and booming tourist trade.
It is not within the Sea to Sky CHC’s mandate to look at creative alternatives like contracting services out to private clinics.
"There are a lot of things we can’t touch on because they are not part of our mandate -— like drug and alcohol issues and some of the private clinic issues," said Cuthbert.
She said the only way the CHC is involved with the private clinic concept is that the council has leases with physicians at both the Whistler and Pemberton health centres. "So we have to look at their relationship in the facilities and what our spatial requirements are."
She said once the health services delivery footprint is finalized and approved the CHC is hoping to start a strategic planning session involving the Sea to Sky communities, a leadership team and medical advisory staff. "And part of that I see looking at private clinics and where they could perhaps be beneficial to us."
Completion of the master plan was originally slated for the end of last year. "We are a little bit behind schedule," said Cuthbert. "December was a very aggressive timeline. We hope to approve it in March."
Initial cost estimates for the preparation of a plan were in the region of $50,000 but Cuthbert said the steering committee doesn’t have final dollar figures yet.