I feel like a bit of an impostor claiming “rural health” status. My husband and I moved to Roberts Creek on the Sunshine Coast in September 2018. Since my husband is a therapist and still sees clients three days a week in Vancouver we still live there part time. So I’m 4/7 rural and 3/7 city. However, we aspire to live on the Coast permanently in a couple of years. I hope to learn from all of you about rural health issues. Some of it I know about since I’ve been a member of the BC Patient Voices Network since 2010 and have been in conversations and meetings with lots of my rural compadres. But there’s nothing like the lived experience!
As for me, I’ve been a member of several patient groups advocating for patient safety and better care, especially for elders and particularly focused on medication safety and overmedication issues. It is our family’s history with a serious drug interaction experienced by my mother in law that inspired me to try to change a system that I saw wasn’t working well, or listening well to the patients and families it serves. As well as the Patient Voices Network, I am a long-time member of the national group Patients for Patient Safety Canada.
I am on the Public Awareness Committee for the Canadian Deprescribing Network and as part of our mandate we have reached out to senior’s groups across Canada. What we have found from working with these grass-roots senior’s organizations, is that there is a hunger for information about appropriate use of medication and avoiding overmedication. We’ve also found that these groups all have newsletters and we have worked to provide them with articles and other materials for re-publishing to spread the information to their members.
I worked as the “patient partner” on the Steering Committee of the provincial Polypharmacy Risk Reduction Initiative for five years, working to reduce medication burden for those in Care Homes by doing meaningful medication reviews designed to reduce unnecessary drugs for those who live there. Often folks are put on drugs and just left on them indefinitely. Of course the more medications you’re on, the greater the chance of drug interactions and trips to the Emergency Ward.
I serve as the public member on the Geriatrics and Palliative Care Committee with Doctors of BC. As well, for about 5 years I have been co-teaching a course in Care of the Elderly with some excellent doctors to the first year medical students as an Honorary Lecturer in the Department of Family Practice at the University of British Columbia. I teach about the value of including the family as part of the team when caring for the elderly. I’ve also taught in the PharmD program for the past two years on medication issues in Residential Care and the importance of family involvement. I am a team member in research studies at both UBC and McMaster University concerning medication safety. As you can see, I’m a bit of a one-trick pony but I hope I can be helpful to your organization and learn from all of you.
MEMBER OF THE MONTH FEBRUARY
The Slocan Valley is an 83km long lake valley located in south eastern BC. There are three small rural villages located along Slocan Lake – New Denver, Silverton and Slocan. As well there are several smaller outlying areas.
Slocan Valley is steeped in history. It was settled by miners attracted by the silver boom in the late 1890’s which lasted well into the 30’s. It has been said that the money taken out of the area in silver, lead and zinc equalled all three major gold rushes combined.
During the World War II years Japanese internees were displaced from their homes on the west coast and moved to the Slocan Valley. Many of them stayed on after the war and became a vital part of the Valley.
The mid 1960’s to 70’s saw another influx of residents – draft dodgers and conscientious objectors from the Vietnam war moved to the area and most of them also stayed and raised families.
The Slocan Community Health Centre was built in 1982 and served as the hospital for the entire Slocan Valley for many years. It was successfully operated by a local society.
In 2002 the entire site was taken over by the Interior Health Authority. In 2003 IHA announced their plans to close the entire facility. After a lengthy and intense battle a combined Valley-wide citizens’ group lobbied the Health Ministry and succeeded in keeping the health centre open until this time.
Over the years the facility has been allowed to deteriorate and until recently two physicians with locum help were able to keep up with patient demand.
Two years ago one of the physicians announced plans to relocate and suddenly we were faced with the same problem many small BC rural municipalities are facing – namely physician recruitment and retention. Visit www.slocanlake.com to see our videos!
The Slocan District Chamber of Commerce decided to expand its long dormant health committee and took the leading role in physician recruitment. After two years of meeting and negotiating with IHA we are still at an impasse. The stumbling block as in so many small, semi remote rural BC towns is retention of our 24/7 emergency services.
The Health Committee joined the BC Rural Health Network in 2018 and recently the Village of New Denver has formed a Valley-wide health select standing committee. This committee is composed mostly of elected officials from the Slocan Valley and a representitive from the Chamber Health Committee.
Wish us luck and good luck to you all as well in our health service related struggles!