Sea to Sky Local Health Area gearing up for growth By Andrew Mitchell If you’re planning on breaking a bone in the future, but don’t want to wait three hours at the Whistler Health Care Centre to get it set, help may be on the way. The Sea to Sky Community Health Council — along with the Coast-Garibaldi Community Health Services Society, the Sea to Sky Regional Hospital District and the three Health Care Foundations in the corridor — has contracted RPG Partnership, a division of KPMG, to prepare a ‘Master Plan’ that addresses the growing health services needs of a growing population. The Master Plan is a focused effort to translate the region’s vision for future health care delivery into a capital plan, which identifies the need for new space, renovated space and major equipment acquisitions over the next 3-5 years. The local health area encompasses Squamish, Pemberton and Whistler. For the Whistler Health Care Centre, the plan presents a welcome opportunity to upgrade the facility and the services currently offered. "It’s going to identify what our future needs are," says Garry Watson, president of the Whistler Health Care Foundation. "Are they expanding? Do we need a hospital? What are the requirements for health services in the Olympic bid?" Although the provincial government, shackled by budget restraints, has given the expansion and improvement of the Whistler Health Care Centre a low priority rating, Watson hopes that the plan will provide for funding that meets the demands of Whistler’s growing population and booming tourism trade. "At the clinic you can wait up to three hours at peak loads in the wintertime," says Watson. "There isn’t a trauma clinic, there are no overnight stays... seriously injured people have to be taken to Squamish or Vancouver by ambulance or helicopter." Converting the Whistler Clinic into a 24-hour facility with expanded emergency and long-term care services is part of a larger $950,000 proposal that is waiting in the wings. The clinic currently has over 3,500 square feet of unfinished space set aside for expansion. Meanwhile, it’s an uphill battle. For 1999/2000, the Whistler Health Care Centre has more than $535,000 in capital equipment requests pending. To date, only $30,000 has been approved by the province. The RPG Partnership expects to complete the Master Plan by December 31, 1999 for review. Based on the plan’s content, the Sea to Sky CHC must submit three health services and capital plans to the Ministry of Health by June 15, 2000 for approval. The Numbers Over the 1998/99 ski season, Intrawest posted a resort record of 2.16 million skier visits, and are expecting similar numbers this year. o Last season the Whistler HCC had 28,954 visitors, 21,150 of which were emergency cases. The remaining 7,804 cases were patients returning to receive secondary treatment and doctor’s referrals. o Of those 21,150 emergencies, 417 were sent by ambulance to Squamish or Vancouver. Another 35 people were evacuated to Vancouver by helicopter. o During the snow season, it was common for the Whistler HCC to treat more than 100 people each day.