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Rehabilitation program users affected by lack of Strathcona Gardens facility

‘It’s not just a pool and ice rink’ — Island Health program user
Workers picket near the Strathcona Gardens complex in Campbell River. Photo by Marc Kitteringham / Campbell River Mirror

It has been over one month since the beginning of the first round of strike action at the Strathcona Gardens Recreation Complex, and Campbell Riverites are feeling the loss of one of the region’s most-used facilities.

While the lack of Storm and minor hockey games, pool time and gym use has had an effect for many people, there is a subset of users of the facility who use it for more than just recreation.

Shirley Warburton is one of those people. A few years ago, she suffered from both heart failure and lung cancer. As part of her recovery, her doctor referred her to the Island Health Take Heart and Breathe Well program, which is a supervised exercise program for people with cardiac, pulmonary or chronic conditions.

“I went and it changed my life. it really did. I can’t go and walk amongst cars because of the exhaust. Then the pandemic came along and we could ’t leave the house,” Warburton said. “They have other programs throughout the day for people with wheelchairs and walkers and paraplegics and all kinds of surgeries. They go there for rehabilitation and the doctors refer all these people.”

The Campbell River facility is the only one north of Nanaimo that provides this program. Warburton said that people from Courtenay, Comox, Quadra Island, Sayward and Campbell River all use the facility for these purposes.

“I can’t breathe properly, and when I’m there the instructors take so much time with you,” she said. “They take your blood pressure, your oxygen levels, they give you all kinds of different exercises to help the area that’s weakest with you. They watch over you and make sure that you’re not having a heart or lung issue. They’re just amazing and they’re so well-trained. It’s changed my life now for three weeks I haven’t had that… I have to stay in the best health I can in case I have to undergo chemotherapy.”

Beyond the Take Heart and Breathe Well program, the facility also usually has chronic disease management programming, aquatic arthritis programming and a pre/post natal program, among others.

“Some of (the instructors) have to have two jobs because they’re not making enough money,” Warburton said. “I don’t know how much money they’re making. I know that if they have to work another job after they come there that early and work for so long, that’s not saying much for the Regional District to do that.”

“They’re worried about paying them a bit more, but the truth is that all of these (clients)… having to go to the doctor and the hospital more for treatments… it’s costing them a lot more in the long run.”

The SRD has offered to go to binding arbitration, but the facility workers want to continue bargaining for a contract that includes a cost of living agreement.

“I don’t think they’re getting enough money, because a lot of them are working two jobs. They have families and the cost of living is so high right now… I don’t think the cost of living is being taken into account with the wage offer that they’re giving,” Warburton said. “They’re wonderful to deal with up there. It’s a rehabilitation centre for doctors to send their patients to.

“It’s not just a pool and ice rink.”

RELATED: Minor hockey players and parents protest SRD office to support striking staff

Minor hockey player demonstration ‘disrespectful’ — SRD

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