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Rural Health Network executive says rural surgical centres would reduce barriers for northern residents

“We’ve been in a healthcare crisis in Rural BC for over 20 years,”

That’s from BC Rural Health Network Executive Director Paul Adams who believes more resources need to be brought back in order to enhance team-based care.

The organization has a series of position papers that will soon be made public- one of them is on out-of-pocket expense and transportation.

Equity in health outcomes is one of Adams’s biggest priorities.

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In an interview with Vista Radio, he noted rural surgical centres would be a great first step as too many people are travelling great distances to receive care.

“We look at Fort Nelson, the municipality of the Northern Rockies, in that region people are often faced with eight-hour one-way commutes in order to get into treatments in Prince George or an eight-hour return trip if they are lucky enough to receive that treatment in Fort St. John,”

Simply put, that’s a scenario that needs to change.

“What that does is that leads to people not seeking care. If you have the most vulnerable who don’t have the money or the resources and they already have a challenge in transportation, we hear stories from people who aren’t seeking care for things like cancer,” said Adams.

“Something that could be treatable now becomes a chronic problem and the cost of addressing that in the future for the health care system is going to be a lot higher than dealing with it upfront.”

Adams is adamant BC’s health care system needs to be overhauled for the long-term as issues of recruitment and retention of nurses have long been a prior – even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bringing resources back to rural communities, especially in the north, would be a good place to start.

“When we went through regional centralization 20 years ago that was a very necessary thing in order to bring services into more centralized facilities. But, we did too much centralization, we took too many resources away from small communities and that removes the enhancement of team-based care.”

“We’ve been in a rural health care crisis in BC for the last 20 years and it’s not a new occurrence. We have seen staffing shortages before the pandemic and we will see them long after it unless we make some fundamental changes to the overall health system as it stands.”

One remedy to trim the healthcare gap would be to open rural surgical centres.

“We should be asking urban residents if they would like the option to expedite their procedures and bring them to rural communities. That provides an economic benefit to the community and it enhances team-based care within those smaller communities and it reduces surgical waiting times.”

“We see the rural surgical centres as being key to enhancing rural services for rural and urban residents. So, instead of having everybody travel from rural to urban to receive services we should be having non-essential surgical care in some of the smaller centres,” added Adams.

Adams mentioned if we cannot provide people with services within their community or if services have been reduced or transferred due to staffing issues that’s fine but BC really needs to look at the economic impact it’s having on the most vulnerable.

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