Squamish senior Anne Boscariol says she is “very concerned” that the local hospital and Hilltop House are increasingly not able to meet the needs of the growing Sea to Sky population.
Boscariol and 21 other Squamish seniors signed a letter to The Chief penned by Boscariol, expressing their concerns.
“Squamish, Whistler, and Pemberton have ballooned in the last few years,” Boscariol said in the letter.
“I recently had two seniors and one friend who went to Prince George and the other, a relative sent to West Van.”
Anecdotally, The Chief has also heard of 60-year residents of Squamish unable to get into Hilltop House.
For its part, Vancouver Coastal Health told The Chief it recognizes the community of Squamish is growing rapidly but notes the demographic is quite young.
“The 2016 census shows the majority of the population is under the age of 40. This would not be the demographic accessing long term care,” said Carrie Stefanson, spokesperson for VCH.
Six Squamish residents are currently receiving care on the North Shore, according to Stefanson, and these people will be transferred back to Squamish “on a priority basis, should they wish to, when vacancies at Hilltop House occur. It is important to note, that their care needs are being met in their current setting,” she said.
Squamish General Hospital is a 25-bed acute care, medical/surgical hospital with diagnostic laboratory and imaging departments, as well as physiotherapy and social work services.
“Emergency, ambulatory, inpatient, maternity, anesthetic, and general surgical care are provided and visiting specialists augment our care teams,” Stefanson said.
“Vancouver Coastal Health has agreements and protocols in place to transfer patients between hospitals. The decision to divert a patient is based on their clinical care needs”
A second operating room at Squamish General Hospital was opened in January 2017 to help reduce surgical wait times. And the four-bed Sea to Sky Community Hospice will open this summer to provide palliative care.
Stefanson added that the health authority is “constantly looking to explore options to ensure patients receive timely and optimal care.”
Boscariol acknowledged that Squamish’s demographic is young, but said that 70 seniors live in her Squamish seniors’ residence and many are concerned about capacity at the local medical facilities.
She was able to garner 21 signatures in one day, she said.
Squamish Mayor Karen Elliott told The Chief she understands how essential the hospital is to the health and wellbeing of Sea to Sky Corridor residents.
“While we understand that not all patients can be treated at SGH depending on the severity of their injuries or illness, we do expect Vancouver Coastal Health to maintain a high and broad-based standard of care for this region, and expect that most of our residents and those that live north of us can be treated at SGH closer to family, friends and their own general practitioner,” Elliott told The Chief.
Elliott also acknowledged the cost of transportation and accommodation that accompanies a transfer outside of Squamish. These financial pressures are exacerbated for those who live further north, she said.
“While we have a very young population we now know that seniors are one of our fastest growing age demographics locally, and so we will continue to work with VCH and other communities in the Sea to Sky to ensure our expectations of service and care can be met as the population in the region grows.”