Council gets update on community health

Representatives from Interior Health were in Council on Monday, March 9 to talk about health service in Cranbrook.

As part of the healthy communities initiative, representatives from Interior Health were in Council on Monday, March 9 to talk about health service in Cranbrook: Erica Phillips, Interior Health community liaison, and Kerri Wall, from the healthy communities initiative.

Phillips noted that there has been a lot of progress on the ICU building electrical upgrade project. The roof and foundation structure is finished and the windows have recently been installed. She said the focus for the work for this year would be the link corridor between the new building and the existing hospital.

The project cost $20 million and was funded 60 per cent by the Ministry of Health and 40 per cent by the Kootenay Regional Hospital District.

“As the current ICU space is vacated it’s provided us with an opportunity to move our paediatric unit to an adjacent space — to our obstetrical unit — which gives us some economies of scale with regards to staffing.”

She noted that they were able to move forward with it as a result of commitments from East Kootenay Foundation for Health which agreed to raise $750,000 to $1 million.

Phillips said in the next few weeks Interior Health will also be able to provide information on a new outpatient lab.

“It will be off site of the hospital,” she said. “It will help to relieve pressure on the parking at the hospital site as well as provide more convenience for patients that need to access lab services by extended hours and weekend service.”

Phillips also spoke about a number of other programs, including the surveillance nurses, nurse practitioners and the cardiac surgery centre in the Kelowna.

“Since the cardiac centre opened in Kelowna, what we’ve noticed is a significant change in referral patterns, wait times are typically shorter and satisfaction from patients travelling west… has been significantly higher than we first anticipated,” she said. “Most of the physicians in this area are actually delighted to have access to this timely service.”

Phillips also mentioned the High Acuity Response Teams.

“It’s essentially a mobile intensive care unit,” she said. It recognizes that the ambulance services available in Cranbrook can’t always meet the needs of some clients in smaller rural communities. “This ambulance teams up with a registered nurse and/or a respiratory technician and helps to stabilize the most critically ill patients and get them moving to a higher level of care, more rapidly then what was previously experienced.”

A team operates out of Cranbrook and is responsible for multiple missions annually and she said it has the benefit of helping those who live in the communities stay in them longer.

Kerri Wall, works on the healthy communities initiative for Interior Health. She noted that she worked with Coun. Ron Popoff back when he was with Interior Health.

Wall is based out of Fernie, but works all around the Kootenays.

“My job is to help facilitate health public policy work at the local government level,” Wall said. “Basically that means, what are things that local governments do that helps create a healthier population? Local governments do a lot.”

Wall said her program really looks at supporting the work that is “ahead of the curve” and “upstream”.

“It benefits all of us and it contributes as well to a better fiscal future,” she said.

“There is no one sector that can make everyone healthy. The healthcare sector is not some miracle cure to make everyone living well.”

She noted that health comes down to a number of things.

“People are healthier, the date has shown for decades, when they have nutritious food, status in society, an income, housing, childcare, education, a clean environment and things like this,” Wall said.

Wall has been working with the city, including the Recreation Department.

Coun. Norma Blissett asked whether there was any plan to expand the nurse practitioner program in Cranbrook.

Phillips said there are no plans at the moment.

“Some of the challenges of the physician shortage have been resolved as a result of recent recruitment,” Phillips said, adding that they don’t have such a significant problem with patients as they did a year ago.