In 2011, Mayor John MacDonald held a meeting at the Heritage Hall as part of a long-running campaign to establish a Medical Clinic in Sayward. Earlier efforts had been unsuccessful, but forty people attended this meeting and, after hearing that the formation of a non-profit society was the final hurdle, a handful of volunteers stepped forward to form the Sayward Community Health Society (SCHS).
The Village Office moved into the Kelsey Centre and offered the old office building for Clinic space. With volunteer labour using donated materials, the Society began renovations to make the building suitable for a medical facility, while the community generously offered everything from cash donations, to internet service, office supplies, and art for the walls.
A five-year lease agreement with a five-year permissive tax exemption was struck between the Society and Village, and the Village picked up all running costs for the Clinic’s first year of operation. The running costs were then taken over by the Society, but the Village continues to provide external structural maintenance of the building and substantial other help.
Getting recognition as a Clinic under the Provincial Hospitals Act and within the Comox-Strathcona Regional Hospital District (CSRHD) took several meetings between the Mayor, Sayward’s Chief Administrative Officer, and VIHA (now Island Health), followed by more meetings with two Premiers, the Ministry of Health, and the Comox-Strathcona Regional Hospital District. The Mayor was also instrumental in securing an annual grant from the CSRHD. During this time, the Society solicited community advice on services they would like to see offered at the Clinic. And, in January 2012, over eighty people attended the Clinic’s Grand Opening.
Because the Clinic now officially existed, Island Health agreed to provide a Nurse Practitioner three days a week. It soon became apparent that the Clinic was too busy and, with the help of Area Manager Enid O’Hara, operational hours were increased. The Clinic is now open Mondays to Thursdays. At this time, the Society learned it was entitled to some payment from Island Health towards the running costs. Next came a Medical Assistant paid for by Island Health, along with computer support and custodial staff paid for by the Society. This relieved the Nurse Practitioner from administrative work and the Board from custodial duties.
Fund raising continued with help from the Community, Sayward Village Council, and Strathcona Regional District, allowing for the acquisition of a centrifuge for lab services, a twelve-lead ECG machine, a lab chair, a new computer system, and bio-hazard resistant flooring. The Society continued to make extensive renovations to the Clinic, including a new reception area, second examination room, NP kitchen area, and separate blood processing room. The majority of this work was done on a volunteer basis by Dan Fear, whom the Board cannot thank enough.
Visiting Practitioners were invited by the Board to come to Sayward. These Practitioners, who arranged their visits to meet the needs of the community, make their own appointments and contribute to the Clinic’s running costs. Currently, these include a Physician and a Public Health Nurse.
The Sayward Clinic is a ground breaker in that it is a Community Clinic, run by the Society on the community’s behalf. The Society is responsible for the running costs of the Clinic, while Island Health pays for a Nurse Practitioner and Medical Assistant.
The Society has obtained charitable status so that charitable tax receipts can be issued for donations over $25. As Medical facilities and operating costs are most often specifically excluded from grant applications, the Society continues to depend on community support to upgrade the Clinic and pay the bills.
The SCHS Board thanks everyone who has supported and continues to support this much needed addition to our community.