On Dec. 11 Sun Peaks’ first full time family medical practice opened its doors to a grateful community. After 20 years of fundraising and planning, residents were given the go ahead to send in their intake forms on Dec. 4.
“I had a brief chat with the doctor and he mentioned one person was so happy that they were in tears,” said Sun Peaks’ Mayor Al Raine. “So I think it means a lot to a lot of people in the community.”
Currently 450 people have signed on as patients during their busy first week of operation. The clinic has room to take approximately 1250.
In a region where during the last election the provincial NDP claimed as many as 30,000 patients or one in three people were without a family doctor, the clinic is a win for the small community. In addition to serving residents, the clinic will also serve temporary staff and the over 480,000 people who visit Sun Peaks every year.
“It’s a game changer as far as community development goes,” said Raine. “Especially for young families and the retirement community. Health care is very important to them.”
Over two decades, the volunteer-based Sun Peaks Health Association simultaneously raised funds for a new clinic while operating a small temporary clinic. Overall they raised $800,000, some of which went to operations.
The association donated $600,000 to the construction of the new building which was matched by the Sun Peaks Mountain Resort Municipality using money they received as part of a start-up grant in 2010.
“It’s pretty incredible that we were able to do all of this without additional taxes or costing the property base anything really,” said Raine.
Over the past year, the community has continued to raise money to outfit the new facility, bringing in around $405,000 through private donations, the provincial government and the Thompson Nicola Regional District (although the clinic operates outside of the regional health authority).
Earlier this month the municipality received a staggering $100,000 donation from Gail and Ron “Shorty” Stiles, putting the equipment fund over $500,000.
“He (Shorty) was known as the mayor of Sun Peaks, because they lived here so long, around 20 years.” said Raine. “They live on the island now but they were so happy to see all the developments that they made this donation to get us over the hump. They were always very involved in Sun Peaks.”
Council is currently looking at ways of permanently recognizing the donation.
Construction on the new building began in the fall of 2016 and the search for a full time doctor with it. A rotation of doctors volunteering their time has serviced the temporary clinic, which also provided women’s and sexual health clinics for the community.
Dr. Shane Barclay, who relocated from Salt Spring Island, is the new medical director for the practice and Dr. Harpreet Kelly of Kamloops will also join the team part-time in January. Dr. Barclay will work together with Laura Bantock, executive director, to establish and run the primary care practice.
“If we put together a list of what a Sun Peaks doctor can do and what they look like, Dr. Barclay meets all those needs,” said Raine, pointing to his experience in family practice, obstetrics, emergency, trauma, cardiac life support and more.
Patients currently without a family doctor in the surrounding communities are also eligible to join the practice with the priority placed on local residents and staff.
“Once ski season begins to wane we will need to cast a wider net,” said Raine. “We are looking at launching a sign up campaign in Heffley and Rayleigh in January.”
An official opening will take place on Jan. 26.
“The next question will be when will it be too small, when will we need to expand?” said Raine.