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Private surgical centre still considering Whistler location



After recent discussions, members of the False Creek Surgical Centre are confident their dream of building a satellite surgical centre in Whistler is getting closer.

"It's unfolding rapidly now," said Dr. Mark Godley, the director of the centre. "(But) it's a big project and it takes a lot of co-ordinating."

Godley has been meeting with key players in Whistler recently, presenting them with the benefits of bringing a private surgical site here.

"We just received a proposal/review from them about a week ago and we're reviewing it with our stakeholders," said Brian Kines, the CEO of the Sea to Sky Community Health Council.

The False Creek Surgical Centre has been actively pursuing building a satellite location in Whistler for the past two years and Godley says it will complement the services that are already offered in town, rather than detract from them.

"We have to be absolutely clear on where we fall in the delivery of services," he said.

The primary level of care will still be focused at the Whistler Health Care Centre, but the new clinic will be a tertiary referral centre, he said.

The proposal is a co-operative arrangement with the existing health care services in the area, so that health services are enhanced rather than duplicated.

The new centre plans to house an ear, nose and throat specialist, a plastic surgeon, general surgeon and an orthopedic surgeon, among others. Godley estimates there will be over 10 surgical positions and at least half of those will be available 24 hours a day.

There are also plans to have a MIR machine as well as a rapid CTI.

"It will be built in such a way that it could accommodate those services and can cope with mass disasters like a lift failure," said Godley.

If the project is to go ahead, Godley is adamant that there must be support from the provincial government. His group is currently in discussions with the government.

"The clinic has to be able to provide services for everybody. We want it to have a legacy. The only way we can do that is to get the provincial government on side so all Canadians can use it," he said.

Getting funding from the ministry to cover surgical procedures on B.C. residents might be one of the biggest hurdles for the centre, said Kines.

In the past, the False Creek Surgical Centre has focused some of its attention on out-of-country patients who get hurt while on skiing vacations.

The new centre would serve those patients as well as locals, who could be treated in Whistler as opposed to travelling to the hospitals in Squamish or Vancouver.

Kines said that a surgical site in Whistler would ease the burden on services in the Lower Mainland.

"I think there certainly is a need for some improved services such as surgery. There is a bit of a wait list now for surgery in the Lower Mainland," said Kines.

There are some challenges involved in setting up this site in Whistler. Finding suitable space here is one of the biggest tasks.

Godley said they have identified a site where they would like to build the surgical centre but he would not discuss particulars.

He also said that they must find new ways of attracting specialists to Whistler.

"There is a shortage of trained nurses and doctors (across Canada). We have to look at ways of attracting those specialists to the area."

Godley believes the services are better and cheaper in a privately managed health care system.

"Big hospitals are inherently inefficient and bogged down with paperwork and bureaucracy. (Here) the patient is treated more as a consumer," he said.

Godley is scheduled to meet with more stakeholders this week, including doctors at the Whistler Health Care Centre.

"There has been no opposition that we've come across," he said. "It's a new concept to Canada because surgical services are still being delivered in the hospital."