On May 10 Dr. Halpenny, CEO of Interior Health West and Dr. Embree, Chairman of the Board of Directors for Interior Health West, were in Clearwater as part of their annual visit to the region.
During these visits they look at the sites and the services provided and speak with the people providing these services; they also meet with local elected officials, foundations, auxiliaries, and volunteers. This provides a connection to the communities they serve and identifies the various needs and specific requirements throughout the region.
Interior Health has several initiatives in place to address such issues as elder care, mental health and substance abuse, the treatment of chronic diseases, amongst others.
“There is also a new wave of focus on prevention and public health. This takes the form of primary and secondary prevention,” says Dr. Halpenny. Primary prevention focuses on issues such as obesity and exercise, diabetes as it relates to obesity, and smoking cessation programs. The government recently announced that it will provide free smoking cessation products to those who wish to quit. Secondary prevention focuses on diminishing risk to already ill patients.
The issue of doctor shortages throughout rural British Columbia is being addressed in several ways. Interior Health works closely with the Rural Coordinating Center to place locums in rural communities where there is a shortage of physicians. They are actively recruiting doctors through the website as well.
Telehealth is a useful tool as well since it makes use of videoconferencing and supporting technologies to put patients in touch with doctors and other health professionals where distances are too great to travel and areas too remote to access.
The creation of the Southern Medical Program is an exciting initiative of UBC’s Faculty of Medicine and will be a major step in addressing both the shortage of doctors as well as their uneven distribution throughout the province. The program, located in Kelowna, starts this year with 32 students.
Dr. Halpenny was impressed with Clearwater’s facilities. “Kudos to the doctors and all the terrific staff and volunteers, and their commitment to the community. We couldn’t do what we do without our volunteers.”
At the conclusion of this interview, Dr. Halpenny and his team joined the hospital auxiliary for tea.