The West Shore is a place to work, play and live – but not for seniors requiring advanced care.
Seniors are being forced to move from the western communities they’ve spent their lives calling home and are spending their final days in unfamiliar areas – often removed from their families – because of a lack of end-of-life care options that have been promised but not materialized.
It’s a story Dave Saunders knows too well, having experienced it both on a personal level with family members requiring hospice and advanced care, as well as hearing stories from local residents as a former mayor of Colwood.
“I was hearing very clearly from our seniors there was not enough services,” he explained. “The Priory has been bursting at the seams for over 15 years … At the end of the day, they’re put on a waitlist and they could go anywhere.”
The Priory is an Island Health facility on Goldstream Avenue for individuals with complex needs who require 24-hour care. With 140 subsidized units, it is one of the only options for West Shore residents needing advanced care.
Frustrated after a promised new facility from Island Health and the Capital Regional District (CRD) didn’t materialize, Saunders, a well-known philanthropist, hopes to change that by spearheading a push to bring a service-enriched seniors housing facility to Colwood and West Shore residents.
He met with a number of local developers earlier this year and identified eight willing to host a project. He took it upon himself to prove the need.
A draft report prepared by the Westbridge Group Valuation Partner, paid for by the Saunders Family Foundation, sheds light on the limited services West Shore seniors face.
There are no funded long-term care beds in Colwood, nor are there any hospice beds. There are six funded assisted living suites and 116 for-profit suites.
Historically, according to the report, health authorities in B.C. held a target of 75 funded, long-term care beds per 1,000 seniors aged 75 and up – but the current provincial average is now lower. In 2019, there were an estimated 69 funded long-term care beds per 1,000 seniors aged 75 and up in B.C.
In 2016, 1,000 Colwood residents were aged 75 and older. Colwood’s total population in 2016 (the last census taken) was 16,859. It is now estimated, according to the report, to be 17,672 with growth predicted to be 10 per cent between 2019 and 2029.
Comparatively, Langford’s population was 32,342 in 2016, now estimated to be 39,476 with growth predicted to be approximately 15 per cent between 2019 and 2029. In 2016, 1,620 residents were aged 75 and up. That’s now estimated to be 1,878 residents.
There are 149 funded long-term care beds in Langford, 60 funded assisted living suites and 256 private-pay independent and assisted living suites.
But Langford does not have any hospice beds. There are only two hospice beds located in the western communities – both are in Sooke’s Ayre Manor and opened in 2017.
The total population in 2016 for Colwood, Langford, View Royal, Highlands, Metchosin, Sooke, T’Sou-ke Nation, Sc’ianew (Beecher Bay) First Nation, and the Juan de Fuca electoral district was 87,575 residents – now estimated to be 94,342. Of that, 4,720 residents, now estimated to be 5,714, were aged 75 and up. Comparatively, the entire population for Greater Victoria is 367,770, now estimated to be 385,402. Of that, 34,310 residents were aged 75 and up (now estimated to be 36,785 or approximately 9.5 per cent of the population).
In the entire region, there are 2,680 funded long-term care beds, 665 private-pay long-term care beds, 398 funded assisted living suites, as well as 2,037 for-profit assisted living suites and 544 not-for-profit assisted living suites. There are also 10 hospice beds at Victoria Hospice (Royal Jubilee Hospital) and 10 at the Saanich Peninsula Hospital.
The report did not include short-term inventory, such as palliative, convalescent or respite beds in hospice counts.
In a statement, Island Health noted it continuously reviews long-term care needs across Vancouver Island and the West Shore.
“As a publicly funded agency, Island Health is committed to fair business practices. Should Island Health determine a need to add long-term care capacity in the future, a comprehensive planning process would occur to determine priority geographic areas for expansion.”
At this time, Island Health does not have plans to open any additional hospice beds on the West Shore.
But as Saunders noted, “the report clearly articulates there is a need.”
West Shore residents still waiting for promised facility
Many seniors now requiring these services have followed this story along with Saunders, who was first elected to Colwood council in 2005 and served as mayor for a term in 2008.
While he was serving as mayor, the CRD looked to replace beds at the Oak Bay Lodge and Mount Tolmie Hospital.
Baptist Housing was hired by Island Health to redevelop the Oak Bay Lodge into a 320-bed facility for dementia care to replace existing beds at aging facilities, including 247 at Oak Bay Lodge and 77 at Mt. Tolmie Hospital, but needed a variance.
Oak Bay Mayor Kevin Murdoch, a councillor at the time, said in June 2012, that had Island Health chosen a Langford site for the proposed facility, “I think we would have been hugely up in arms.”
Oak Bay council rejected the replacement proposal at the same meeting, due to concerns over the size of the project.
After Oak Bay council’s rejection, the CRD sought other options. Saanich, Colwood and Langford expressed interest but in the end, the project was built at the former Blanshard elementary school site.
At the time, Saunders was approached by a well-known West Shore developer who proposed renovating the Oak Bay Lodge while also building a new facility on the West Shore.
“It made the most sense,” Saunders explained, but he quickly realized the proposal didn’t stand a chance with the way the CRD board vote is weighted towards the core municipalities. “Ironically, residents of Oak Bay were approaching me as Colwood mayor to get the variance rejected.”
While Saunders noted The Summit is a great facility, it does not add any new beds for the region.
The Summit at Quadra Village is a partnership between the Capital Region Hospital District (CRHD) and Island Health. CRHD designed and is building The Summit on behalf of Island Health, and will own the land and building while Island Health will provide the care services.
Officials broke ground in June 2016 and are on track to complete it by the end of this year. The $86-million, four-storey, 320-bed facility will offer 24-hour care and support to seniors and people with dementia and includes private rooms with en suite bathrooms for all residents, a natural courtyard, activity areas, physiotherapy room, hair salon, lounge and other amenities.
Saunders said he was told not to worry back in 2012, as more services were in the works for the West Shore. Emails circulating at the time involving the CRD noted the West Shore and Saanich Peninsula were next in line for $50 million projects of their own within five years. Saunders added he was also told by Island Health the West Shore would have its own facility in the next five years.
Those years have come and gone and Saunders is still waiting, trying to get someone to pick up the torch.
“But who will step up?” he asked. “That’s why I’m still hanging in there. I made a promise to some seniors.”