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Doctors frustrated with VCHA priorities

Decision to concentrate facilities in Squamish ignores numbers at north end of corridor



The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority is planning for 2020, but according to a group of concerned doctors the conclusions reached by the steering committee don’t reflect the growing need for emergency diagnostic services and sports medicine in Whistler and north Sea to Sky corridor.

"The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority wants to have the status quo for Whistler and Pemberton, and they want to expand services in Squamish – that’s what it boils down to," said Dr. Adam Kendall, an emergency room doctor at the Whistler Health Care Centre and member of the 2010 Whistler Medical Staff Committee.

What that means is there are no plans by the VCHA to significantly improve the level of medical services offered in Whistler.

The original recommendations from the VCHA, the Health Service Plan for Acute Services Sea to Sky Corridor, were questioned by several doctors at a presentation at the end of June, and in a letter from Dr. Bruce Mohr. Dr. Mohr was the Medical Director for the Whistler Health Care Centre, but recently stepped down from that position.

In response, the VCHA amended its original recommendations slightly to allow for some improvements in Whistler and Pemberton, but Kendall and other doctors believe they still fall short of what’s needed.

"It’s not like we’re asking for a new hospital here in Whistler, but the medical community ultimately wanted to see enhanced diagnostic services in Whistler," said Kendall.

But if the VCHA, which administers health care facilities throughout the Lower Mainland and the Sunshine Coast, decides that the Squamish General Hospital is inadequate to house expanded services, Kendall would like to see that hospital built in Whistler. "It just makes more sense to do it in Whistler (rather) than Squamish," he added.

The VCHA planners do recognize the fact that the largest growth in population and visitor numbers will happen in the north part of the corridor, as well as the fact that Whistler’s emergency room visits are more than Pemberton and Squamish combined. By 2009-2010, VCHA is projecting more than 26,800 emergency room visits per year in Whistler, compared to 17,050 for Squamish and 6,750 for Pemberton. They also project that the Whistler Health Care Centre (WHCC) will perform about 21,000 X-Ray exams, compared to 10,200 in Squamish and 2,500 in Pemberton.

Still, the VCHA consultants recommended expanding inpatient and day surgery capacity at Squamish General Hospital, as well as an ambulatory care program, improved emergency room capacity, expanded radiology (such as mammography and CT scan), and more beds.

For Pemberton, minor renovations are recommended to increase the lab, improve patient flow and address infection control issues. For Whistler, the short-term recommendations include creating a space for a CT scan, and in the long-term creating more emergency room capacity.

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