Behind The Scenes – Innovating Out of a Healthcare Crisis

by Deborah Rogers –

There’s been a quiet revolution in healthcare on the Saanich Peninsula. It’s been needed for many years, and now residents are really starting to feel the benefits. This month I’m heading behind the scenes at Shoreline Medical to see what’s been done, and why it matters so much.

I’ve read the dramatic headlines, driven down Bevan Avenue at 8 a.m. on a weekday and seen the Walk-In lineup: I wasn’t sure if I’d be arriving to find chaos. In fact, mid-morning, the Sidney Shoreline Medical centre was a scene of calm efficiency. I was taken for a tour of the under-construction, but already much expanded clinic, by Christina Talbot, HR Manager and Liz Beatty, Medical Office Administrator.

The first, really unique, fact about Shoreline Medical is that they are operating a completely different model. It’s a not-for-profit society that owns and operates the clinics. A volunteer board made up of community members and physicians oversees decision making, ensuring that they strive towards their vision of a network of primary health centres across the Saanich Peninsula. They are collaborative, multidisciplinary centres where family doctors work as part of a team to provide community health care.

That vision got a significant boost thanks to funds raised by the Saanich Peninsula Hospital & Healthcare Foundation. They championed the idea that everyone on the Saanich Peninsula should have access to a family doctor. Those donated dollars mean appealing infrastructure for new doctors; a centre that is managed, so doctors do not have to run a business at the same time as treating patients; Electronic Medical Records; and, most importantly perhaps, the support of a team of other professionals.

What does this mean for Peninsula residents? Well, if you have a family doctor, maybe it doesn’t mean too much. But if you are one of the estimated 15,000 people here who are not currently registered with a doctor it means help is on its way! Liz and Christina detailed the rapid expansion at Shoreline Medical. In February this year their second Primary Care Centre opened in Brentwood Bay. Renovations in Sidney are continuing but already the expanded space has allowed new doctors to join. There are now 21 family physicians across the two centres. Since opening they’ve attached over 4,000 patients to a physician, and that process is ongoing as more doctors are recruited. Walk in clinics at the two centres see 27,500 patient visits per year – that will inevitably mean less people waiting at Saan Pen’s Emergency Room.

What I see as I tour around are bright, clean, newly-equipped rooms, purpose built for the doctors who use them, and the patients that need them. Centralized lab space designed for maximum efficiency. And what I’m hearing is enthusiasm and passion for this vision of how things can be done. Christina stresses that finding the right people, who are on board with Shoreline’s different way of operating, is really key for recruitment and retention of staff: “seeing how much these people care is wonderful – I’m proud to be part of the organization for that reason.” And even when the phone is ringing off the hook, when there are 15 people waiting for a walk-in appointment, the staff are happy because they know that the whole team is there to support the load, and serve the community.

Photo by Nunn Other Photography

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