A well-known philanthropist and former mayor of Colwood made a promise years ago to bring more services for seniors requiring advanced care to the West Shore.
Dave Saunders was approached by Nicole Donaldson – a licensed practical nurse, dementia care specialist and seniors’ advocate – over 13 years ago with her concerns that there was not enough long-term senior care in the West Shore. Saunders also met several seniors who had the same concerns.
After a proposal to renovate the Oak Bay Lodge and build a new facility on the West Shore was knocked down, Saunders went to Island Health with his concerns. He said he was told he’d see a facility on the West Shore in five years time but that time came and passed and there was no movement when it came to seniors’ advance care facilities in the Western Communities.
Saunders said his frustration at the time boiled over to the point where he became more actively involved, going to local politicians with the issue.
“We’re sending loved ones away from our community and family members would like to see them but can’t…they have to plan a day trip just to see them,” Saunders said.
After stepping down from politics, Saunders said he handed everything over to newly elected officials who he hoped would pick up the torch, but nothing happened.
Now, even more frustrated, Saunders spearheaded a push to bring a seniors housing facility to Colwood and West Shore residents. He met with developers and identified eight that were willing to host a project.
The Saunders Family Foundation also paid for a draft report from the Westbridge Group Valuation Partner to prove there really is a need for service-enriched seniors housing and care facilities on the West Shore.
“The report says the need is more than there,” Saunders said.
The report also shows that there is a significant number of seniors on the West Shore that aren’t being serviced but that the demographic has the median income to support a private facility.
“In comparison to Victoria, that has several of these facilities, there’s certainly room for one to be built on the West Shore,” Sauders said. “And we have the ability to incorporate a public part of the facility into the mix.”
Saunders said he is urging Island Health to take advantage of what the West Shore has to offer such as cheaper land, landowners that are willing to enter long-term leases and even people who are willing to provide a capital investment.
“We should have been scrambling to build these seniors facilities 10 years ago and now 10 years later they’re going to cost more money,” Saunders said.
While Saunders said he’s willing to lead the charge on this issue, he said he’s looking to officials from every level of governance to become involved.
“I’m happy to work with them … but it’s going to take some leadership to come forward and say ‘yes we need to do this right now’,” Saunders said. “My hope is this report puts to rest any misconception that there isn’t a need on the West Shore … I challenge anybody from Island Health to prove me wrong.”
–With files from Katherine Engqvist