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Health care team expected to start soon

Lake Cowichan residents provide feedback on the future of their health care during a July community meeting. - Tyson Jones/file
Lake Cowichan residents provide feedback on the future of their health care during a July community meeting.
— image credit: Tyson Jones/file

Cowichan Lake is about to get a whole lot healthier.

Island Health confirmed last week that the roughly 6,500 residents of Lake Cowichan and surrounding area are just a few weeks away from their promised primary health care team.

“Enhanced primary health services through a primary health care team will begin providing programs and services in early 2014,” the provincial health authority (formerly VIHA) announced in a press release.

The team will be located at the Kaatza Health Centre, 58 Cowichan Ave. West and will begin delivering services early in the new year.

A nurse practitioner has also been hired for the Cowichan Lake area. The nurse practitioner will begin practising at the Brookside Medical Clinic in the New Year.

“This year we went from three doctors to zero, and in the New Year we’ll have two full time doctors and however many doctors work out of the walk-in clinic and then the nurse practioner,” Lake Cowichan Mayor Ross Forrest said.

The two new docs will have an international background, said the mayor.

We’re also getting the two doctors through a return of service program, where international doctors do a course through (Vancouver’s) St. Paul’s Hospital and two year course at the U of Victoria that allows them to practise in Canada,” he said.

“The doctors we have coming are from, I believe, Chile, and we’re getting two of them Aug. 1.”

Forrest said the town entertained quite a few doctors in the international program to try and convince them to work in Lake Cowichan.

“There were eight openings on Vancouver Island and we knew we would have a real good chance because some of the other areas that had openings weren’t quite as attractive communities as we are.”

Community information sessions will be held in the New Year when residents can meet the primary health care team and get information on the health services that will be provided and how to access these services.

Dates and locations for the information sessions will be announced in the coming weeks.

The new arrangement arises from circumstances that left the community temporarily doctor-less.

“There was a bit of a panic in the community,” Forrest said.

“So we formed a committee called CHOOSE Cowichan Lake and we worked together with VIHA’s physician recruitment and also with the Cowichan Family Practitioner group and they’ve done a tremendous job for us,” he said.

“The goal of the working group was to develop a primary health care team that would meet the needs of residents based on what they considered as their most important health care issues and the make-up of this team definitely meets this goal,” Lake Cowichan Councillor Bob Day said in a release.

The Cowichan Lake Working Group, which consisted of representatives from the Cowichan Communities Health Network, CHOOSE Cowichan Lake, the Cowichan Valley Division of Family Practice and Island Health, was formed to develop a model for an integrated health care team.

“This collaborative, team was selected based on input from local residents about their long-term health services needs which include local access to care,” Dr. Bob Burns, executive medical director for Population and Community Health for Island Health, said in a release.

Community consultations took place to determine the long-term health services needs of residents and the working group agreed on a primary health care team consisting of a dietitian, primary health care nurse, social worker/counsellor and a clinical office assistant.

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