Update 2 p.m. Jan. 20:
To reflect the regional focus of the proposed wellness centre to be constructed on Sicamous’ Main Street if the necessary grant funding is received, the name Shuswap Healing Centre has been chosen. In addition plans for the wellness centre have changed to reflect a purely medical focus with the entire building devoted to healthcare related services. An earlier plan for the project featured residential, commercial and daycare space while the new rendering does not.
The Columbia Shuswap Regional District (CSRD) board of directors voted unanimously to support a District of Sicamous application for grant funds to build a wellness centre in the community.
The district is applying for a $6 million grant through the Canada-British Columbia – Rural and Northern Communities Program.
If grant funding is received, the wellness centre will provide office space to all of the district’s medical professionals.
It is a central component of Sicamous’ attempt to attract another doctor to the community. The centre could serve as a place to practise for up to two doctors, three dentists an optometrist and a physiotherapist.
“It’s been a project that we’ve been involved in trying to get initiated since I’ve been on council,” said Sicamous’ mayor Terry Rysz.
Rysz said he has seen community interest in a wellness centre project grow over the years, particularly as Jack Beech, the district’s only physician, nears retirement and the problem of doctor recruitment grows.
The proposed site for the wellness centre is on Main Street. Along with offices for medical professionals, the plan for the medical centre building features a coffee shop, community daycare facility and as many as 12 elevator-accessible residential suites for seniors.
Rysz said a new building on Main Street aligns with the district’s goals for beautification of downtown Sicamous.
The need for the wellness centre is expressed in a report from the District of Sicamous, which states that 45 per cent of the Sicamous population has had to leave the district to be treated by health-care practitioners in other communities.
At a Jan. 10 meeting, Rysz, who also sits on the CSRD board as a municipal director, informed directors of a similar wellness centre project in Chetwynd that succeeded in attracting doctors to the community.
Rysz told the Eagle Valley News he first heard about Chetwynd’s project at a Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) conference.
He said before their project, Chetwynd had no doctors lined up, showing the ‘if you build it, they will come’ philosophy of the Sicamous project can work.
Rysz also said Sicamous plans to partner with neighbouring First Nations to house a regional healing centre for both Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples. It would also serve as a regional hub for both physical and mental-health services.
Rysz said representatives from the Splatsin band are on the committee, which is in the process of determining the priorities for the inner workings of the health centre – if money to build it is received.
The District of Sicamous purchased an older building on Finlayson Street which currently serves as a hub for medical services in the community, but Rysz said if a new wellness centre can be built, that space will be converted to a community centre.
“We are struggling here in Sicamous with facilities even for social events,” Rysz said.
He added that the use of the high school gym and other facilities that are less-than-ideal for large gatherings, could stop if the building on Finlayson Street were freed up for community use.
The CSRD board gave their unanimous approval to a letter of support that Sicamous can include with their grant application.
Rysz said the wellness centre project has tons of potential and a lot of possibilities, and is one of his top priorities.
He said the deadline for the submission of the application is at the end of the month.