Central Saanich politician says municipality should buy housing for health workers amid doctor shortage


With one million British Columbians without a family doctor right now, one Saanich Peninsula politician is pitching a possible answer.

“This is purely a federal and provincial jurisdiction and local governments are really restricted on where they can have influence in this, and housing is a pretty strong purview of local governments,” said Central Saanich councillor Gordon Newton.

Newton is putting forward a motion for Central Saanich to consider purchasing housing to rent to health-care workers below market rate.

Newton’s main concern is the growing lack of access to family physicians for local residents and mounting pressures on the health-care system.

“We have seen a lot more unattached patients coming to our walk-in clinic from all over Greater Victoria, from as far away as Duncan,” said Shoreline Medical interim executive director Karen Morgan, a clinic which services the Central Saanich area.

At Shoreline Medical’s two locations in Brentwood Bay and Sidney, the doctor shortage is causing physicians to face more pressure from more patients.

And as a result of the increased strain from a growing list of patients and the COVID-19 pandemic, Morgan says Shoreline Medical has seen a high staff turnover, who attributes the main barrier to retaining and hiring replacements to the current cost of housing in the Capital Region.

“Rents have been increasing. It’s a struggle to make ends meet,” said Morgan.

Also, a concern is the looming larger collateral effects of the high cost of living.

“This is even stifling economic development and economic growth,” said Newton.

The model Newton is suggesting is similar to one the Lady Minto Hospital on Saltspring Island is already investing in, which has purchased an apartment building to ensure health-care workers have homes.

In Central Saanich, health-care workers think the municipality holding the asset instead could work.

“I’m very hopeful,” added Morgan.

“We’ve also had some discussions with developers and they seem interested in how they might move some of the things forward that they want to do, by cooperating with the council and health-care facilities and other businesses that need housing.”

Council will debate Monday whether it’s interested in moving forward with the idea of making subsidized housing for health-care workers a reality.

Kori SidawayKori Sidaway

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