IHA looking for more help
from South Okanagan ‘partners’

The Interior Health Authority (IHA) is asking South Okanagan communities to play a larger role in helping it deliver services — encouraging more out-of-hospital care and helping to bring doctors, nurses and other health professionals to the region.

Administrators with the South Okanagan General Hospital in Oliver met with Osoyoos Council Monday to deliver an update on improvements that are helping health care workers provide improved patient care in-house.

But Carl Meadows, Health Services Administrator, Acute Care, and Susan Brown, Health Service Administrator, Community Care, also told Council health care can be better provided beyond the hospital’s walls.

“We really want people in the hospital when they need to be in the hospital,” said Ms. Brown. “But people often recover better at home, they do better aging-in-place at home (and) often palliative care is better provided at home.”

“So we’re looking at how we can strengthen our community services so that we can have people in the hospital who need that appropriate care, but people are going to get the best care possible within their home community.”

The presentation to Council included information that suggested about 66 percent of all visits to SOGH’s emergency room are for “non-urgent care.”

That compares with about 45 percent across IHA hospitals.

Of the 16,717 unscheduled visits SOGH received over the most recent 12-month reporting period, just 978 were classified as emergencies and another 4,331 as urgent.

The remaining 11,104 visits could better be resolved within the community, Mr. Meadows said, speaking to a proposed IHA poster of a father bringing a young child into the hospital with a cut on his arm.

“We want them to go to a doctor’s office to get sutured,” he told Council. “We don’t need them to be taking up emergency time.”

 

That, he said, would allow the hospital team to provide improved care to patients who need a hospital’s acute care.

Reducing the number of non-urgent care visits would not impact staffing levels at the hospital, he added.

“Most of the (patients) should be either at home if they’re frail and need personal care and if they’re in the hospital they need to be recovering from an acute episodic event,” added Ms. Brown.

“The patients that are in the hospital need to be in the hospital. A smaller number are going to be coming in but they’re still going to need acute care services.”

The Osoyoos community is in the midst of a health services needs study that started in April 2017 when a community group made a presentation to Council proposing a not-for-profit walk-in clinic for the Main Street building now occupied by the Desert Sun Counselling and Resource Centre.

Residents for Health Care made that pitch as part of a solution to a shortage of doctors in the community. The advocates also wanted Council to hire a recruiter to find additional doctors to serve the Osoyoos community.

Although not suggesting Osoyoos go that far, Ms. Brown did suggest some steps the community could take to help it attract and retain health care workers.

They include:

  • assisting in developing a ‘living’ recruitment and retention plan
  • assisting with finding accommodation for locums and new recruits
  • developing strategies to help integrate the physician and his or her family into the community 

“Oftentimes, recruitment is felt to be something that you need to focus on when we’re short of physicians or short of other health professionals,” she told Council.

“The reality is we really need to be working at it all the time, so that we have an ongoing recruitment and retention plan. We want to be able to keep people here.”

She encouraged the Town to provide a personalized environment that has doctors, nurses and others “wanting to be in Osoyoos and seeing that this is a place where they want to live and work.”

The challenge of finding accommodations, she added, also needed to be addressed, especially during the summer months.

“It’s one of our really big challenges when we have short-term staff coming in, especially during the summer,” she said. “It’s very challenging to get the accommodations that are needed.”

 

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