The Saanich Peninsula Youth Health Clinic is now open Thursday nights from 5:30-7:30 p.m. in its new home at Peninsula Medical (2a-2379 Bevan Ave.) This is the last in a two-part series. Read part one here.
Shortly after the Saanich Peninsula Youth Health Clinic re-opened last Thursday evening, around 20 people were packed inside — patients, doctors, a youth counsellor and support staff. In a back room, teens were organizing 5,000 help cards, a consolidated list of contact numbers for nearby health resources which will soon be distributed to Peninsula high schools — all between bites of pizza. It took a lot of work to get to this point, and it is still not done.
Shawna Walker, executive director for Peninsula Medical, said at a daily clinic, staff follow up on cases every day, but if a teen comes with an acute need during their two-hour a week evening clinic, staff still have to follow up the next day due to urgency. It is one of many challenges.
“I think you would be astounded to know how much goes into putting a two-hour-a-week clinic together,” she said.
Peninsula Medical was aware of last year’s pilot project led by Dr. Kate Evans, and so over a lunchtime meeting, Walker and the clinic’s medical director, Dr. Andrea Lewis, asked Evans if there was anything they could do to help. There wasn’t an immediate need at the time, said Walker, but eventually, a partnership became more obvious.
“We can house them, and we can provide the administrative background to help this succeed,” said Walker.
Walker said most doctor’s offices operate on a fee-for-service model, where doctors are paid a preset fee for tests and procedures from the province (for example, the province will pay $22.97 for applying a short arm cast from elbow to hand). A portion of that money then goes to support overhead, like administrative staff, electricity and rent.
Peninsula Medical is also fee-for service, but the evening youth clinic runs differently, even though they operate in the same building. The physicians and psychiatrist are funded sessionally, where a provincial ministry — in this case the Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD), pays the doctors an hourly salary.
Walker said after much discussion, the different funding model was chosen so physicians would be guaranteed a salary regardless of the services provided.
Funding from MCFD will pay the youth clinic’s doctors until the end of March 2019. However, the clinic is still seeking funding for a registered nurse, administrative staff and other overhead. For those aspects, Peninsula Medical is asking for community help. Many partners have stepped up already. For instance, the Victoria Family Court and Youth Justice Committee provided funds to extend the clinic when funds were running short, which helped bridge the time frame of the re-start. They have also had interest from Sidney Town Council, the Rotary Club and other non-profits. Walker is making a business plan now which will include a fundraising goal to keep the clinic open for the long haul.
Dr. Lori Vogt, a youth psychiatrist who has been with the clinic since the start, said the group is committed to running the clinic and eventually make it self-sustaining. She said it fits into what the Doctors of BC (formerly the British Columbia Medical Association) and the province want: to provide a “medical home” where people can get care for many issues (physical, mental, substance use, etc.) under one roof with those doctors co-operating and co-ordinating with each other. In many ways, the team-based model of care used by the youth clinic mirrors that of Peninsula Medical.
On any given week, the youth clinic would ideally have a general practitioner, a registered nurse (which they are currently seeking government funding for) and a psychiatrist, in addition to a medical office assistant and mental health counsellors from MCFD.
While staff are busy working on how to fund it, youth are busy trying to get the word out. Schools across SD63 have been very willing to advertise the service, said Vogt. Teen volunteers are putting up posters in schools, community centres and coffee shops, in addition to promoting the service through Facebook and Twitter.
Star Moraff, a Grade 12 Parkland student, is among 10 or so volunteers from Parkland, Stelly’s, Camosun, and other schools. She was helping organize the help cards on opening night. She said before the cards were printed, they listed numbers on a sheet of paper and surveyed some classrooms to see if the information was helpful, “and they all had positive feedback.”
They spent four or five hours sitting in a Tim Hortons, calling various doctor’s offices to make sure the phone numbers on the card were accurate. Both volunteers said they’ve noticed a cultural shift where health concerns, of any kind, are less of a taboo.
“Even if you personally don’t have any struggles, you might know a friend that would,” said Moraff, adding youth often go to their peers for help before approaching adults, so allies now have a resource to give to someone in need.
“The amount of support we’re getting from so many other people has been really great,” said Sara Kjernisted, another volunteer from Parkland. “It shows us that so many others are dedicated to this as much as we are.”
UPDATE: March 20, 2018: Adam Olsen, MLA for Saanich North and the Islands, recognized the Saanich Peninsula Youth Health Clinic in the House on Thursday, March 15 in recognition of their re-opening.
To view the help card online, visit thehelpcard.ca. To learn more about the clinic, visit their Facebook page at facebook.com/peninsulayouthclinic. For other questions, call Peninsula Medical at 250 656 4143.