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Need advice on sexual health? Look to Saanich

Island Sexual Health Clinic executive director Bobbi Turner, left, and Jennifer Gibson, co-ordinator of community education services, are happy to move to a bigger space in the Quadra and McKenzie area from their overcrowded clinic on Fort Street. - Sharon Tiffin/News staff
Island Sexual Health Clinic executive director Bobbi Turner, left, and Jennifer Gibson, co-ordinator of community education services, are happy to move to a bigger space in the Quadra and McKenzie area from their overcrowded clinic on Fort Street.
— image credit: Sharon Tiffin/News staff

The day an anonymous donor gave $5,000 towards the Vancouver Island Sexual Health Society’s relocation campaign, the atmosphere in the clinic turned downright joyous.

“It was like someone had given us all a shot of adrenaline,” said Jennifer Gibson, co-ordinator of community education services. “It’s so validating to have someone from the outside recognize what you’re doing and give you opportunities to keep doing that. It’s pretty amazing.”

The donation – the largest the society has received since it was founded in 1969 – covers one-third of the fundraising goal set to purchase the new medical equipment, including three additional exam tables, needed once the clinic relocates to Saanich in December.

The society, currently operating on Fort Street in Victoria, saw about 20,000 client visits last year – a demanding volume for a clinic with three exam rooms.

The new clinic will offer a broader range of educational and medical services – if they can get the cash together – in twice the space at 3960 Quadra St.

To raise $15,000, the society has launched an online campaign at kapipal.com/islandsexualhealth.

The total budget for the relocation is set at $50,000.

“We’ve known for the last couple of years that we’ve really outgrown the space and it got to the point that it was critical we relocate,” said Bobbi Turner, executive director of the society.

Reception is overflowing with clinic files, many of which are now stored in boxes throughout the office. Staff – 15 doctors alongside about 25 active volunteers – have been forced to alternate between work stations.

The new location will allow for more client visits in more comfortable spaces, as well as on site training and more educational workshops.

“We started out as a one-doctor organization and have grown substantially from that, from just a birth control clinic that was very female-centred and about family planning to what we currently see: people of all ages and genders and orientations and identities and abilities for sexual health,” Gibson said.

“The space we’ve been in just doesn’t meet the needs of our clients anymore – to the point that they’re actually having to stand while they’re waiting for the doctor because we’ve run out of seats. That’s not comfortable care.”

The new Island Sexual Health Centre location was also selected for its closer proximity to the West Shore and Saanich Peninsula regions, from where many clients travel after two lesser-accessed satellite offices were closed earlier this fall. It will continue to offer a full range of education and medical sexual health services.

The United Way of Greater Victoria, the Vancouver Island Health Authority and provincial gaming grants provide partial funding for the society, with the remainder of its operating funds coming from medical services plan billing and profits from contraception sales, which are declining as the popularity of less profitable contraceptive methods increases.

“With all of the education components to the organization and ensuring that the clients don’t ever walk away without their contraceptives, regardless of their ability to pay – those are things that we really believe in and that takes its toll,” Turner said. “In order to provide all those free services, that really hits the pocketbook.”

For more, see islandsexualhealth.org.

nnorth@saanichnews.com

 

 

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