ASK Salt Spring Answered: Ep. 2 Adam Olsen Salt Spring Healthcare


    Damian Inwood: So I'm here with Adam Olson, the MLA for, fill me in on the actual title is? 
    Adam Olsen: Yeah. MLA for Saanich North and the islands 
    Damian Inwood: Saanich North and the islands. And we've just been through a two hour discussion, with the ASK Salt Spring group, and one of the topics that came up, which took a considerable amount of time, was the question of healthcare on the island and the lack of walk-in clinics for people here. And that was something that you talked for quite a long time about; the need for a walk-in clinic of some kind. And the challenges around it. Maybe you could, fill in as to what you see are the other challenges for getting that done. 
    Adam Olsen: Well, I would say that the discussion about healthcare on Salt Spring and on the neighboring Southern Gulf Islands always does take up quite a bit of time because it is a, a very challenging topic, on each of the islands, of course is somewhat different. They've got clinics that are community governed, and community run on the outer Gulf Islands. and on Salt Spring, there isn't kind of a co-located facility for a team-based, primary care to be delivered. So it is, it is challenging. There's a, I think, lack of space for a team of healthcare practitioners to operate out of, getting that land zoned and serviced is very challenging. I think we talked at length about the challenges that that causes. 
    Damian Inwood: Yeah. And, you said that you felt that the Lady Minto Emergency Department was being used very inefficiently. What did you mean by that? 
    Adam Olsen: Well, emergency rooms, are there for emergency situations. They should not be used for, they should not be relied on, I should say, for prescription renewals and for what would normally be primary care, what a primary care practitioner would deliver. So they are at the emergency room are providing a couple of different services. And, you know, I think what it's doing is it's creating an increased pressure on that very important community resource here on Salt Spring. and, you know, I think it's incumbent upon the provincial government to be working with the health authority and with the community, to develop community, and primary care healthcare, location that, so then it will relieve that pressure and allow the emergency room to do, what it's supposed to be doing rather than serving functions like walk-in clinic, wood or, the basic, you know, provision of primary healthcare.
    Damian Inwood: Right. And I think we talked about, supplementing, a walk-in clinic with, with possibly a mobile clinic too. That would be something that we, we could certainly use on Salt Spring. 
    Adam Olsen: Yeah. It was suggested that, you know, as has been the case, for a variety of different health services, that it's been very challenging to get the funding for the mobile clinic. I wouldn't look at the clinic necessarily as a replacement, to, a properly functioned walk-in clinic or, a clinic that hosts a team of healthcare practitioners working together to deliver primary care to the population here on Salt Spring. or, you know, in coordination with independent primary doctors as an example as well. there's a there's a role for them to play. there's a role for all of these, healthcare, services and the mobile clinic could, could also provide a, a much needed, ability to, to do outreach in certain parts of the community. 
    Damian Inwood: Right. I think you said that, you know, island Health, delivers the services they deliver, but it's difficult to infuse, community values into what they do in places like, like Salts Spring Island, that they, you know, they provide a kind of a, a large blanket service and, they don't necessarily respond to local needs very, very efficiently. Is that fair to say?
    Adam Olsen: Yeah. I think one of the things that, my colleague Sonya first know, she's the leader of the BC Green Party and the member for Cowichan Valley. One of the things that we've been advocating for are for community, health clinics, which are, you know, the provision of community health governed by members of the community, and really infusing the priorities of the community and the values of the community into that health delivery. An example of this was raised during the conversation about kidney disease and the access to dialysis. And this is an example of where, you know, a health authority might take a look at the community and say, oh, there's all these reasons why it's just easier for us to ask the people who need dialysis to go to Victoria to do it. 
          But a community like Salt Spring is a compassionate community, an empathetic community to those people who need access to dialysis and might very well agree that it's a priority of the community. And so therefore, in a community health setting, a community health model, they might make that a priority, and they might then design services that then allow for people to not have to travel off island and spend eight or nine hours three days a week accessing the renal care that they need. So, you know, I think that this is where community values and community priorities can start to be, you know, injected into the decision making and into the services that are being delivered. You know, might very well be that the community looks at the situation with family doctors and says, how can we support them or might take a look at the nursing situation and say, how can we support, better support those, healthcare practitioners. So, it's about a relationship. and I think the current service, delivery in healthcare is very much top down. And what we've been proposing is that we infuse a bottom up approach to it that allows the community to really drive the type of services that they value. And focus on that 
    Damian Inwood: Is the government showing any signs of supporting initiatives like local initiatives, where nonprofits say set ups, a group here and then ask for funding from the government 
    Adam Olsen: You know, I'd really like to answer that in a very positive way. Unfortunately, what I have to say is that I've, you know, seen this government take a very top down approach to this. The idea very much has to come from the Ministry of Health, or else, it is very rocky road and a very challenging to get the government to agree to do that. So I think, you know, we'll continue to advocate that the government, kind reorients itself and allows for communities the ability to really drive that decision making and deliver the kind of healthcare that the community values. But unfortunately, what we're seeing right now is a ministry that is very much driven top down, and healthcare authorities that, you know, are very large and very focused on the work that they're doing. And the communities then just kind of accept t, the programs and services that the Health Authority is prioritizing. 
    Damian Inwood: And I think we touched on the impact of the ferries, obviously on people who have essential medical treatments such as dialysis and other things, and how difficult that makes it, for the people living on an island really to get the healthcare they need. Is there a different kind of discussion going on about whether in fact, you know, we had to settle for that because we are living on an island. what what's your view on that ?
    Adam Olsen: Well, I think there is a certain reality that when the wind is blowing very hard, that it's very challenging to land ferries and, and even, you know, water taxis or helicopters, you know, depending on the weather situation that is existing. So, you know, the reality and, and I think, the example of, of someone who needs to go off island to access dialysis, that needs to happen for that person's healthcare, to be maintained, they must go and, receive dialysis treatment. And so, this is where it becomes very challenging that if a ferry system becomes unreliable because they, you know, for example, what we've seen over the last couple of years, they don't have enough staff and one staff member, isn't able to make it, and the ferry can't run, that will strand people who absolutely need to receive healthcare services. 
        And in this case you're not necessarily going to be accessing the water ambulance or helicopters, but that doesn't mean that you're not going to be intensely affected by that, especially if you need to get off island for dialysis. So, yeah, I mean, I think that there is a ton of empathy for those that have these long awaited meetings with a health specialist. They've been, you know, schedule it for a long time and then out of nowhere, there is a ferry cancellation due to staffing shortages or due to extreme weather. And that is one of the hazards of living on an island for sure. And one of the, you know, really difficult situations that I hear about in my constituency office regularly is, you know, and to a lesser extent, but it happens for Vancouver Island residents as well, for going over and accessing services in Vancouver. But it is more acutely felt in my constituency, in the Southern Gulf Islands in particular, when people have, medical practitioners that don't live on the islands, those services probably will never be established on the islands and need to get off the island in order to access them. 
    Damian Inwood: Do you have any hope that the new ferry commissioner will in fact be able to improve the situation It doesn't seem to have happened yet. I know he is only been in there a short time, but, it seems like there's even more cancellations due to staffing shortages now than there were a few months ago. 
    Adam Olsen: Yeah, so Nicholas Jimenez is this the name of the new CEO, coming from ICBC, I think one of the things that I'll say to this is that, I'm encouraged that the new CEO has worked with government, understands how the government operates. Formerly, as the head of ICBC which I imagine he worked very closely with, the premier David Eby when he was the Attorney General and responsible for ICBC. Certainly they will be aware of each other. I think they'll be aware of the new board chair of BC Ferries, which was also involved in the ICBC situation. So there's a lot of familiarity there. I think that it is too early, to be seeing results with this new CEO, to just, in all fairness, you know, and get around and understand the system and understand how the office works is, is going to take some time. 
       However, I was very encouraged this morning when I was coming over on the ferry to, read that he's taking a very much a people approach. And so in getting back to the previous questions that you were asking, with respect to people who need to get off the island for medical, reasons when you have a system that is focused on the people that they're moving, and you know, and when I was talking to Minister of Transportation, Rob Fleming about this BC NDP governments, move a few years back to insert the public interest into decision making, this is very clearly an indication that this government and the corporation is going to be looking less at the profit profitability of the ferry service as a corporation and much more as it being a corporation that's there to deliver service transportation services for people and in an economy. 
       And so, in that perspective, you know, when the governance model changed originally it was that, and the minister pointed this out in budget estimates in my exchange with him, that it was required that every single run, every single route be profitable. And of course, there's going to be lots of routes in a provincial wide ferry system on the coast, that those routes are never going to be profitable. And that's why we need the big routes to be able to provide a revenue to, to support the smaller routes. And so we can see a definite shift away from the profit being that the number one priority, you know, in the mind of the CEO of BC Ferry's. I'm very pleased to hear that, that people are going to be at the center of that decision making, and that means that, I believe that that should mean that he'll be very sympathetic to the fact that these disruptions have consequences and very real consequences for people, especially in using the example that we've been using in this interview. 
        So, I'm encouraged by the investment that the government made of $500 million to help keep the cost down for my constituents and for people who need the ferries as a primary form of transportation. It was a good investment. I was very happy to support it and I'm very happy to continue to work with this minister Fleming, who has a very, very strong grasp of the transportation needs in this province. And I find him to be very responsive too. and in fact, he'll be coming and visiting the island to, to see the transportation needs that Salt Spring has in early May. So I'm quite encouraged by that and continue to work with them and continue to work with the ferry system to ensure that it's delivering the service that Salt Spring Islanders need. 
    Damian Inwood: Okay. Well thanks for popping in and talking to us today, Adam. It's been great. 
    Adam Olsen: Thank you, so much for the invitation. And, I guess I should just say this is my first opportunity to be able to hang out in front of the microphone of Salt Spring Radio. And, congratulations. I know that this has been a lot of hard work to get to where we're at today, and it's encouraging to be surrounded by all of this vinyl and music and, I'm really looking forward to the programming that you're going to be providing the constituency.
    Damian Inwood: Thank you. We're very excited and, should be on the air by the new year, so you'll be able to go out live. 
    Adam Olsen: Alright, well I look forward to it. Okay, 
    Damian Inwood: Thanks. Okay, great. 
    Adam Olsen: Awesome.