Salt Spring Island

Salt Spring Island Community Health Society
181 Booth Canal Road, Salt Spring Island, B.C. V8K 2N2
Curt Firestone:


Salt Spring Island is one of the Gulf Islands located in the Salish Sea between mainland British Columbia and Vancouver Island. Health Services are located in the community of Ganges Harbour.

“We are a brand new society on an island in need of a primary health care centre. We formed as the current fee for service system has been unable to recruit and retain family doctors. A mental health nurse practitioner was placed here about one year ago. As primary care providers are the door to health care services offered by the MSP, we find that 25-35% of our residents have to use an emergency room as their primary care centre. Way too often these are the most vulnerable, those who do not know how to navigate a health care system. At this juncture, we are going through early growing pains and certainly appreciate the support of those who have been down this road before us.”


There is not a lot new to report for the month of June, 2019.  The Community Health Society continues to work with Wave Consulting on the finalization of the Health Needs Assessment Survey.  There were 561 respondents to the survey.  The compilation of the information received is well under way.  Then the report will be proofed and edited.
The SSCHS Board expects to review the report for the first time in August.  Soon thereafter, it will be made public.

We wish everyone a very pleasant summer.

Distributed to:  SS Health Advancement Network, BC Health Coalition, BC Rural Health Network, Canadian Assoc. of Community Health Centres, BC Association of Community Health Centres, SS Family Physician Chapter, Rideau Community Health Services, SS Foundation, Adam Olsen, MLA, SS Community Alliance, various respected community members  


Community Health Needs Assessment Project

The Community Health Society wishes to thank all Salt Spring Residents for their participation in the Community Health Needs Assessment and survey project.  Enough completed surveys were handed in or completed on line in order to provide statistically viable results.

Wave Consulting is conducting some individual and group interviews this month.  This will enhance the result viability.

It continues to be the Community Health Society’s desire that the results will be shared with Salt Spring Island Residents after Wave Consulting completes their final report.  We hope to give you a date in next month’s Summary.

May 27, 2019 Town Hall

Marcus Greatheart, MD in his presentation at the Community Health Services’ Town Hall meeting shared his perceptions of how a community health centre would compliment SSI’s existing health services.  Dr. Greatheart is a family physician on the staff of Three Bridges Community Health Centre (CHC) in Vancouver. His combination of a master’s degree in social work with his medical degree professional highly qualifies him to work with very complex patients.

As an employee of Three Bridges CHC, he has comprehensive 30 minute visits with patients.  These patients include those with critical problems of aging, mental health issues, dependency issues and those needing culturally sensitive care across gender and sexual identity.  These are the same patients that may not thrive in the typical short visits in a private practice physician’s office.

Three Bridges CHC includes a team approach with physicians, nurse practitioners, registered nurses, social workers and consultants all available to give comprehensive services.  In a community like SSI, the family doctors working in the BC fee for service model are often forced to keep their patient visits short and do not have the availability of other team members within their private offices.  A CHC is funded to have a range of health service practitioners.

Having both models available on SSI would greatly enhance the range of services for the wide degree of diversity that is Salt Spring.  By having a CHC, our family doctors would have additional referral resources.

The CHC allows for walk-in patients by building that time availability into the daily centre work schedule.  A patient is most often given a same day appointment if required.

This takes considerable pressure off the emergency room with its high overhead as the ER is designed to resolve trauma issues.  

Dr. Greatheart’s training included time on Haida Gwai where he became very sensitive to issues within the First Nations’ community.  He also did a family practice rotation with Shane Barclay, MD at the former King’s Lane Clinic.

Distributed to:  SS Health Advancement Network, BC Health Coalition, BC Rural Health Network, Canadian Assoc. of Community Health Centres, BC Association of Community Health Centres, SS Family Physician Chapter, Rideau Community Health Services, SS Foundation, Adam Olsen, MLA, SS Community Alliance, various respected community members  

April, 2019 SUMMARY

April, 2019 was all about working towards May.  The Community Health Society has two big events this May.
Community Health Needs Assessment Project

In conjunction with Wave Consulting, Ltd, the Salt Spring Community Health Society is conducting an island wide health needs assessment survey.  The survey was developed by Wave Consulting in conjunction with a 21 member advisory group consisting of SSI residents from all walks of life.  It includes two major sections in addition to the standard “who are you” type questions (age group, etc).  There is a section on the Social Determinants of Health and another on Access to Community Health Services.

As reported in the Driftwood and in the Exchange, the survey will be open from Monday May 6 until June 3.  You are encouraged to participate by going to:   This is open to Salt Spring residents.

May 27, 2019 Town Hall – Everyone is invited
This is the second SSCHS Town Hall.  It is both a time for the SSCHS to share information with the community and to hear the community’s health service questions and suggestions.

Guest Speaker:  Marcus Greatheart, MD.  Dr. Greatheart is a Vancouver based family doctor who specializes in serving patients with mental health and/or addictions problems, working with seniors and also working with people within the LGBTQ community.

SSCHS will be sharing the results from its 2018-19 interviews with health and community leaders and discussing the Health Needs Assessment Project which will be underway.

We will have plenty of time for questions and comments.
The town hall will be held in the Multi-purpose room at GISS starting at 7:00 PM on Monday, May 27.

Distributed to:  SS Health Advancement Network, BC Health Coalition, BC Rural Health Network, Canadian Assoc. of Community Health Centres, BC Association of Community Health Centres, SS Family Physician Chapter, Rideau Community Health Services, SS Foundation, Adam Olsen, MLA, SS Community Alliance, various respected community members


The Salt Spring Community Health Society has chosen Wave Consulting to undertake a community health needs assessment.  Wave Consulting comes highly recommended.  Some of their clients include: BC Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions; the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice and Gabriola Health Care Foundation.

This is now an opportunity for the Salt Spring Community to speak to what health services are missing, where there are gaps in services, what additional services are needed on Salt Spring, what are our health priorities and do we want a community owned and operated non-profit multidisciplinary health centre.

Wave Consulting will be meeting with both Community Health Society board members and a specially created advisory committee made up of community, health and physician members.  From these meetings, the health needs assessment will be designed and implemented.  If timing goes as planned, a town hall will take place this autumn for the community to receive the report.

As a lead up to the health needs assessment, the Community Health Society has conducted 28 interviews with community and health leaders on Salt Spring.  The initial six page report of the interviews has been shared with Community Health Society Board and is now being condensed into a summary document to be presented to the community at a town hall scheduled for May 23.

At the beginning of March, the Community Health Society had a table at the Film Festival.  Yet another opportunity for Salt Spring residents to be involved in the discussion of what health services are missing and what needs to be done on Salt Spring.

February 2019

The Salt Spring Community Health Society has a wide range of announcements to share with the community.

BC Government announces:

1. Ten new urgent care centres to open in 2018/19.  The BC provincial government has yet to determine where the new centres would be located.

2. Funding for 200 new family doctors. The new physicians will be free to work on contract or on fee for service.  In a fee for service plan, the MD is a self employed business.  On a contract, the physician might work for Island Health, for a profit enterprise or for a non-profit health delivery agency. 

3. Funding for 200 new nurse practitioners.  Nurse Practitioners have been providing primary health care in other parts of Canada and the USA for decades.  The nurse practitioner under the provincial plan might be self employed or part of a government agency or part of a non-profit health services agency.

4. Local health delivery services are being reorganized into primary care networks.  A primary care network is a group of patient medical homes in a defined geography linked with primary care services delivered by a health authority and/or other community-based organizations.  A patient medical home is a family practice where doctors work with teams of health professionals and in local health networks to bring services together around patients, and where patients experience timely access to continuous, coordinated care. The primary care team could include doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers and other health professionals.  A rural geographic area should include 10-50,000 residents.  Each primary care network must have an established Collaborative Services Committee so that the community served is fully involved in the design, creation and evaluation of health services.  

Salt Spring Community Health Society (SSCHS) announces:

The Salt Spring Community Health Society was chartered by the Province on January 24, 2018.  Its mission is to promote community health by seeking to expand local access to primary health care on Salt Spring Island and to support an inter-professional community health centre.  It is a non-profit society.

A new website has been designed in order to facilitate community and society transparency.  The site may be found at 

SSCHS will be raising funds to create the necessary infrastructure so health professionals are encouraged to successfully relocate to Salt Spring Island and become part of the community.  To that end, SSCHS is taking steps to create an effective fund raising mechanism.  Money raised could be used to build/equip/operate a Salt Spring community health centre. 

Hold that date!

1) On September 11 there will be a Town Hall meeting.  The SSCHS wants to gather information/ideas from the community.   This is the community’s health services system and SSCHS needs your input.  They hope that this is the first of several town halls.

2) On September 25 SSCHS is hosting a Forum featuring Peter McKenna, executive director of two Ontario-based rural community health centres. McKenna will be speaking on the Ontario model of primary care.   Ontario is the leading province in the creation of community health centres as the backbone of primary health care service delivery.

 In an effort to work in collaboration with and to have access to provincial and federal resources, SSCHS has joined the following organizations: Canadian Association of Community Health Centres; British Columbia Association of Community Health Centres; British Columbia Rural Health Network and the British Columbia Health Coalition.

Contact: Curt Firestone; 250-537-1935

December, 2018

Currently, the Salt Spring Community Health Society (SSCHS) is able to give donation tax receipts through a formal arrangement with Salt Spring/Gulf Islands Community Services Society.  In December, the SSCHS submitted a Revenue Canada application to facilitate our own registered charity status.  When in place, this will greatly enhance our fund raising ability.  

The SSCHS approved a timeline for the Community Health Needs survey project.  As a community based, community operated health society, it is the Salt Spring Island community who should decide what services are needed.  As community members we know that there are health service gaps.  Which gaps are the most critical and should be resolved first?

One component of the survey has been underway since the beginning of December.  Thirty key community members have been identified for a one on one interview.  All interviews are scheduled for completion by January 31.  The results of the interviews will assist in the composition of the community wide survey and will be part of the community report.

The SSCHS plans to present the survey results to the community at a May, 2019 town hall.  

Then the fun work of financing and implementing community based, community operated health services will begin.  Testimony from around the world has shown that when the community takes responsibility for health services, they are most effective.  When government health services operate in full collaboration with the community served, they are also most effective.  The SSCHS on behalf the Salt Spring Community plans to work in full collaboration with the BC Government and the local health authority.


November seemed to be a month of special meetings.

Salt Spring Health Advancement Coalition (SSHAN) hosted several Island Health Authority administrators at a meeting with SSI health providers, administrators, advocates and elected officials.  The meeting was designed to share information from all different prospectives.  

Some of the main themes included:

  • Housing issues
  • Gaps in mental health services
  • Community engagement earlier in the process of health care planning
  • Impact of water supply issues on health care and housing
  • Impact of the new provincial government on changes in the direction of care
  • Progress toward a Community Health Network on SSI
  • Lady Minto Hospital Emergency Department renovation

For more information contact SSHAN.  Dana Ypma. or David Norget

The Salt Spring Community Alliance (CA) devoted its November monthly meeting to the topic of health services.  After presentations by David Norget, co-chair of SSHAN and Curt Firestone, President: Salt Spring Community Health Society Board; the CA developed a list of health services gaps and focused some attention on the LMH emergency department’s renovation. For more information contact the CA.

The SS Community Health Society (SSCHS) marked its first year in existence with an annual general membership meeting.  The first year was reviewed and progress was noted and appreciated.  The membership approved a 2019 budget and elected the 2019 Board.  Board members are: Dale Schack, Martha Taylor, Gwen McDonald, Jane Horsburgh, David Norget, Dave Taylor, Jennifer Williams, Curt Firestone and Rob Grant.

For more information contact SSHAN.  Dana Ypma. or David Norget

After the AGM, the 2018-19 Board reviewed the membership’s input regarding SSCHS 2019 goals.  The following goals were adopted:

 a) to conduct a survey and a series of interviews to gather community input on Salt Spring Island’s most pressing health care service needs;

b) to develop a business plan, develop and initiate a fund raising plan;

c) to enhance our visibility in the community, regionally, and provincially; 

d) to design and implement our first health service component.

The SSCHS 2019 Board officers are: Curt Firestone, President; Dave Taylor, Vice President; Jane Horsburgh, Secretary; Dale Schack, Treasurer.

At its November meeting, the British Columbia Rural Health Network in recognition of the world wide community health centre (CHC) evolving development formalized its relationship with the Australian Rural Health Network.  Australia has been very successful in developing CHCs in its vast rural areas.  We, in British Columbia, have a lot to learn from them.  It is heart warming that existing CHCs wish to mentor emerging CHCs.  Interdisciplinary CHCs are the outpatient health services delivery system of community choice in the 21st century.

The SSCHS wishes all Salt Springers a happy holiday season with friends and family.  May good health be a joy to cherish!

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 10.36.13 AM

November, 2018

Salt Spring Island Community Health Society released two videos, interviewing Peter McKenna, Executive Director of the Rideau Community Health Services in Ontario, Canada.

With many thanks to Salt Spring Island and Peter McKenna.

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 10.36.13 AM

August was notable for the announcement that three additional medical doctors would set up their family practices on Salt Spring Island.  Furthermore, all of the current doctors shuffled their physical locations in order to create space in existing offices for the new physicians.   It is sincerely hoped that all Salt Spring residents will now have a medical doctor or nurse practitioner who will serve as their primary care provider.  No one will have to leave the island for basic health care services.  No one will have to sit for hours in an emergency room to receive services typically rendered in a primary care provider’s office.  There will be more time for those who already have a family doctor or nurse practitioner to review multiple health care issues in one visit; to receive routine preventive care services.


Salt Spring Island is currently being served by both full time family doctors and part time family doctors.  It has been estimated that between 2500 and 3500 residents do not have a family doctor.  It is the community’s hope that the new doctors are full time and that they will carry all residents who do not currently have a primary care provider on their patient panels. 

For the Salt Spring Community Health Society Board of Directors, August was a month of ironing out administrative details and enjoying the summer season.  September brings a renewed level of activity as we continue to forge ahead to bring a comprehensive multi-professional community health centre to Salt Spring Island.  Both the BC Assoc. of Community Health Centres and the Canadian Assoc. of Community Health Centres meet this month.  We will be there networking with those who have created dynamic health centres in their communities and those who like us are now creating a new centres.

Having enough family practitioners on Salt Spring is a wonderful first step in the comprehensive health centre development.

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 10.36.13 AM

July, 2018 SUMMARY

July became a month of attending meetings, working with other organizations, doing technical work and preparing for the September Town Hall and Forum.

Gwen McDonald was appointed as the SSCHS representative to the Southern Gulf Islands Advisory Committee.

Technical work was completed on the application for registered charity status.  This is a 12-15 month effort.  In the interim, SSCHS has intermediary status allowing for charitable donations to be tax deductible.

Preparation work is well underway for the September 11 Salt Spring Island Town and for the September 25 Forum with Peter McKenna.  Hold those dates.

The SSCHS continued to have meetings with Island Health, BC Rural Health Network and the BC Assoc of Community Health Centres.

Distributed to:  SS Health Advancement Network, BC Health Coalition, BC Rural Health Network, Canadian Assoc. of Community Health Centres, BC Association of Community Health Centres, SS Family Physician Chapter, Rideau Community Health Services, SS Foundation, Adam Olsen, MLA, SS Community Alliance, various respected community members  

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 10.36.13 AM


In the true sense of community cooperation, the Salt Spring and Gulf Islands Community Services Society and the Salt Spring Community Health Society have entered into an Intermediary Agreement.  This agreement was approved by both Boards of Directors in June, 2018.  It will allow for funds to be donated to SS/GI Community Services for the sole purpose of funding capital and operational activities of the SSCHS.  Registered charity receipts will be given in accord with Revenue Canada procedures.  The agreement is for two years while SSCHS applies for and hopefully receives its own registered charity status.

The Board heard a report and discussed the need for dental services on SSI.  This critical health service is currently provided by four private dental practices.  Those patients without supplemental insurance plans must either pay full cost (which for many is high) or be eligible for provincial dental financial assistance.  Unfortunately the reimbursement rates for those on dental assistance are so low that most local dentists choose not to accept these patients.  This is especially true in as much as their caseloads are already overflowing.  The principal low income dental program located in Victoria does not accept non-Victoria residents.   An off-island, reduced fee program in Nanaimo is the only current resource.  Unfortunately, it is complicated by the travel logistics.  There are concerns on SSI if dentists decide to leave for retirement or other reasons; especially since a new dental practice is very expensive to create and operate.

The Board adopted a fiscal year of November 1 to October 31.  This is in line with the already adopted month of November to the annual general membership meeting.

Screen Shot 2018-06-05 at 10.36.13 AM


The Salt Spring Community Health Society (SSCHS) is pleased to announce that it now has a web site.  While the website is not yet complete, it is an opportunity for Salt Spring residents to learn more of what the Society is doing and to engage with us in our efforts to meet the community’s health care service needs.

At a special General Meeting of the SSCHS, new wording was proposed for the Society’s constitution.  The wording was recommended by the Society’s attorney.  The following was adopted as Society purposes: “a) to promote health by providing the public of the Salt Spring Island community with access to primary care medical services by developing a multi-disciplinary health care centre; b) to promote health by providing the community of Salt Spring Island with primary health care services or products that prevent and manage serious threats to health including access to related counselling, information, or group support programs.” 

During the month of May, the SSCHS decided to join the following organizations.  This is enabling the Society to work with our peers in an effort to get the very best information about what is happening across Canada.  We will be carefully listening to Salt Spring residents and gaining guidance from other health societies and organizations.  We have quickly learned that we are part of a historic movement in BC and Canada to improve the delivery of health services.

BC Rural Health Network
Canadian Association of Community Health Centres
BC Association of Community Health Centres
BC Health Coalition

The Salt Spring Forum hosted Andre Picard, Health Journalist for the Globe and Mail.  Approximately 150 Salt Spring residents were in attendance including members of the SSCHS and health care providers.  You are referred to the May 30 edition of the Driftwood for a summary of Picard’s presentation as written by Gwen McDonald and Curt Firestone.  Needless to say, it was an inspiring call to action to bring Canada’s health care delivery system into the 21st century.