Health needs confirmed

Mental health services top local gap

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A health needs assessment of Salt Spring being released this week has determined mental health is the most pressing health-related issue on the island, with only half the people who need services able to access them.

The Salt Spring Island Community Health Needs Assessment was carried out from May through July 2019 by Fay Weller of Wave Consulting Ltd. for the Salt Spring Island Community Health Society. Community members were asked to identify the needs they felt were most important for the health and well-being of the community and for themselves.

The survey netted 562 respondents. Additional information was drawn from in-person interviews and focus groups.

The assessment results show islanders feel well-served by Lady Minto Hospital, and with the arrival of three new doctors a year ago, Salt Spring is now one of the few communities in British Columbia deemed not to have a shortage of family physicians.

“Despite this, the needs assessment shows many islanders cannot get needed health services when they need them, and some people cannot find them at all,” said Community Health Society president Jennifer Williams.

With 50 per cent of those who indicated they needed mental health services stating they were not able to access them due to availability and affordability, this easily stood out as the top community need.

“The report tells us that we need to focus on helping to address the needs of people who experience significant barriers to accessing health care on Salt Spring,” said Martha Taylor, the community health needs assessment project lead. “And the area of greatest need, across all age groups, is mental health. This is the area we want to focus on first.”

Dementia care and youth services were also unavailable to the majority of those needing the service. Access to specialists and diagnostic testing was another challenge for many, due to the need to go off-island for services as well as long wait times.

While many respondents commented positively about access to emergency care and the quality of care from local doctors, paramedics and hospital staff, changes to the health care system and service structure were recommended. Many people suggested a clinic with walk-in service and/or a community health centre with co-location of services. A team-based approach to primary care has been suggested as the best way to improve access to specialists, diagnostic tests, monitoring and complementary care such as social services.

The full report can be found online at saltspringcommunityhealth.ca. A printed hard copy will also be available at the library.

For more on this story, see the Oct. 16, 2019 issue of the Gulf Islands Driftwood newspaper, or subscribe online.

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