Today during Question Period I asked the Minister of Health about whether or not he was willing to help with the imminent funding crisis faced by the Island Sexual Health Society. I was pleased that the Minister has agreed to work with Island Health and the Island Sexual Health Society to seek ways of alleviating their funding predicament.
Below is my question followed by the minister’s response.
A. Weaver: Island Sexual Health Society provides essential primary and public services to the lower Island, with over 26,000 patient visits each year. It fills a significant gap around basic health care needs in a cost-effective manner.
My riding has both Camosun College and the University of Victoria, with thousands and thousands of students who do not have GPs or access to GPs, who require these services.
The Island Sexual Health Society is systemically underfunded by our public health system, needing more than a third of their budget — in fact, 36.4 percent, if you wish to know, of their operational budget — from non-governmental sources. As a consequence, they are struggling to stay open. In fact, you might say they are victims of their own success.
My question is to the Health Minister: will the minister make a commitment to support Island Sexual Health in continuing to provide these essential services?
Hon. T. Lake: Thank you to the member for Oak Bay–Gordon Head for the question.
Island Sexual Health is a non-profit organization that does provide excellent service to people in the Victoria area. They have a mixed funding model. They provide services on a fee-for-service basis. That continues so that health services are available through that model. They also provide some public health services through funding from Island Health, funding that has continued to increase over time.
I understand that Island Sexual Health moved into larger facilities and that the higher costs associated with those larger facilities have outpaced their revenue in terms of the MSP fee-for-service model. I know that Vancouver Island Health Authority is working with Island Sexual Health, and we will be involved in those discussions to look at ways of supporting this organization to maintain the valuable services that they do provide but also to maintain and stay within the budget that they have for those services.
In order to explore the matter further I followed up with a supplementary question. The Minister reaffirmed his commitment to work with Island Sexual Health Society to find solutions to their funding problems.
A. Weaver: Thank you to the minister for the very thoughtful response to that question.
I would like to add that just this week the board of Island Sexual Health met and agreed to cut their budget for this next fiscal year by $140,000, and they also made some structural changes by going to a walk-in model to increase client numbers and decrease administrative costs, but, as the minister noted, they still need long-term commitment of $235,000 per year to offset tenancy costs. This is the barrier to their continued success.
Again to the minister: would the minister be able to agree, again, to work with Island Sexual Health in order to solve the crisis, the short-term crisis that they face, in terms of meeting their monthly tenancy costs?
Frankly, the services they offer to southern Vancouver Island are simply too important for them not to remain solvent.
Hon. T. Lake: Again, I want to acknowledge the very good work that Island Sexual Health provides to residents in the Victoria area, particularly the university population. The member from Oak Bay and I share family members who attend the university and know that these services are very valuable.
However, whether it’s a non-profit organization or a private corporation providing publicly funded health care, it is important that they pay attention to the funding model and the revenue that comes in and the expenditures. In this situation, this organization decided to move into space that perhaps outpaced their ability to match with revenue. But we will work with them. We will work with Vancouver Island Health Authority to look and see if there are ways of supporting the organization while making sure they stay within their budget.