Twenty valley residents attended a meeting on June 3 sponsored by Vancouver Coastal Health. Facilitated by VCH Communications Director, Belinda Boyd, and Community Engagement Representative, Jody Sydor-Jones, the public meeting was the first since operations at our hospital passed from the United Church to VCH on April 1.
A general introduction focused on Vancouver Coastal Health’s geographic mandate, which serves over 25 percent of B.C.'s population encompassing several municipalities, regional districts and no less than fourteen First Nations communities. VCH is currently engaged in a major shift in the way the health care system operates, with a greater attention being given to community engagement. As this is an evolving process, VCH can’t be sure how this engagement process will affect services to Bella Coola.
However, a Community Engagement Advisory Network (CEAN) has begun, and attendees at the meeting were encouraged to sign up and get involved. Forms were distributed, and more information about CEAN is available on the VCH website for interested residents who were unable to attend this meeting. In addition, CEAN sign-up forms will be made available at the hospital
The floor was then opened for questions, and the first asked about the relationship between VCH and B.C,'s newly formed First Nations Health Authority (FNHA). While this relationship is also still evolving, an accord has been signed between the two parties committing each to work in partnership. A further discussion ensued, addressing the place of Nuxalk traditional medicines and alternative treatment options within our local hospital operational structure.
Next, support for the tele-health program was expressed; with a plea for expansion of the program to better serve the counseling and mental health needs of the community. Support for the expansion of currently minimal psychiatric services in the valley was also expressed. The VCH representatives did offer unqualified support for the tele-health program, and suggested that local screenings of films related to mental health issues might be another way to offer much needed support to our community.
Finally, questions about the level of support for seniors who suffer from chronic illness were raised, highlighting the need for an extended care facility. While no definite commitment was offered in this area, VCH is exploring how financial resources might be shifted to facilitate this longstanding valley goal.
In closing, VCH stated that more such community meetings are planned, to offer valley residents an opportunity to get involved and express their personal views on how the provision of health care services can be improved and expanded.