Representatives from Vancouver Coastal Health were on hand October 10 to conduct the first of many community engagement meetings as the transition from United Church Health Services takes place.
Jody Sydor-Jones, Coastal Strategy Director with VCH, says the meeting was intended to begin the process of public engagement on the Central Coast. “Many people may not be aware that VCH already has an arm specifically for community engagement,” Sydor-Jones explained. “We regularly conduct community meetings with our coastal communities and now we are beginning this process in Bella Bella, Bella Coola, and the other Central Coast communities.”
The meeting was well-attended, with about 30 members of the community present. Repeated topics included long-term care, birthing services, and service delivery models.
Sydor-Jones acknowledged it’s challenging for the community to only witness end-of-life care and misses out on the experience of birth. One-third of beds in the hospital are utilized for residential care, and there are no plans to reinstate birthing services.
“We know this is a real concern for the community, but there is no quick fix for birthing services,” she said. “However, there may be more solutions for long-term care.”
While Sydor-Jones stressed that there are no solid plans for long-term care yet, (i.e. no talks of a separate facility), she was impressed with the wealth of knowledge in the community on this topic and was eager to tap into other options, such as home health redesign to support people in their community environment.
“At this point it is too premature to have a discussion about building a long-term care facility,” said Sydor-Jones. “Right now we are really focused on transferring management to VCH and employing mechanisms to engage the community.”
One of these mechanisms is known as CEAN (Community Engagement Advisory Network), where 90 members of the public within VCH’s service area lend their voice to healthcare planning. While CEAN is now open to residents of the Central Coast, Sydor-Jones is also working with the community to create a local advisory network, and noted that 20 out of the 30 people present at the meeting signed up to receive more information on the establishment of the network.
Sydor-Jones also addressed what she called ‘the elephant in the room,’ the idea that VCH is going to reduce or cut services. “We have no intention of cutting or reducing services,” she said. “There is a hospital and a clinic in Bella Coola and Bella Bella, and they will remain as they are.”
Sydor-Jones emphasized that VCH is committed to reducing inequities in rural areas and tailoring services to better meet the needs of residents. “An example of this might be an increase use of TeleHealth,” she said. “TeleHealth could be used for consult and follow up appointments in many cases, reducing the need for travel.” She also stressed that the Express Tickets would remain available for referrals outside of the community.
“VCH has an obligation to provide health services for the entire community and we want to hear the ideas, thoughts and concerns from the community on how to do that,” said Sydor-Jones. “This is just the beginning of that process.”