Use Lake Cowichan’s doctors, health pros, or lose them, residents warned

"It’s use them or lose them." That’s the message to the people of Lake Cowichan from Mayor Ross Forrest.

With Lake Cowichan finally getting doctors back into the community, it’s time for the people to take advantage of their services, he said at a recent council meeting.

"One thing that is a bit of a concern is that we have health care here now; we have a nurse practitioner, we have doctors in town. But, they are not as busy as they should be. We have these people here now and people should be utilizing them."

At the prospect of seeing their last two Lake Cowichan-based physicians moving practices to Duncan, residents mobilized, forming a committee and working with the Vancouver Island Health Authority to try to regain some services.

As a result, a group of Duncan doctors organized a drop-in clinic in one location, former doctors are returning for part-time service to Lake Cowichan patients in another spot, with the help of a nurse practitioner, and the Kaatza Health Unit’s staff has been bumped up to form an integral part of an integrated health care team.

Lake Cowichan town councillor Bob Day said the Choose Cowichan Lake committee is trying to decide whether to disband now or continue working, with a lower profile, on whatever subjects come to hand.

"The primary health care team is open for business at the health unit. There’s a dietitian, a behaviourist and a primary health care nurse there as well as public health people.

"They are working on a multitude of programs to get people involved in, if they are chronically ill."

He urged the public to take advantage of the service.

"So, if you know someone who is suffering from something like diabetes or some other condition, who is struggling to maintain their regular lifestyle, please tell them to go there.

"You can just walk in and get signed up and they’ll come up with a good care plan for you that will help you get back to somewhat of a normal life with education and diets. Don’t hesitate to use them. They are probably able to handle 2,500," he said.

Forrest added that he hoped people whose doctors have moved out of the community would reconsider their own situations, as he was himself.

"I’m not trying to take business away from Dr. Kerswell and Dr. Postuk [who moved their practices to Duncan] but our concern is our community and the doctors here and the nurse practitioner, who is paid by VIHA, they have to stay busy. It’s taken a lot of work to attract them here. We want to keep them here.

"And there are a lot of people who don’t have a doctor, who maybe are not aware. They should go in and sign up and get back in the flow of things and people do use the health care we do have," he said.

In addition, there are new services. "The integrated health is new to our area and a lot of people don’t understand what is available there. There is a great service provided there for people who need it. I hope they will take advantage of it soon," Forrest said.