2014 - 2015 Press Coverage
Long-term, Gabriola could have health-care advisory committee reporting to Island Health 2015/08/11

Derek Kilbourn, Sounder News, Tuesday, August 11 2015

Getting Gabriolans more control over improvements and changes to their local health care programs [and facilities] is what is at the core of the new “reorganization” being discussed by the Island Health Region and representatives of Gabriola.

Dr. Drew Digney, the Executive Director and Executive Medical Director of the geographic region that includes Gabriola, spoke to the Sounder this past week to give more details on the press release issued July 17 by Island Health (published page 2 this edition of the Sounder.)

Essentially, Island Health is moving to a more local geographic focus instead of having offices in Victoria be the point of contact for everything under the “health care” banner.

According to Digney, consultations that started three years ago heard communities saying, “no one knows who to talk to.”

“There was no island face someone could talk to - someone who could at least point out what or where to go.”

He added there is also the recognition at Island Health by way of the new CEO that, going forward, Health Authorities and the Ministry of Health are not going to be able to do what needs to be done without local help.

“We are already taking up a significant chunk of the provincial budget - anything else we take away comes from somewhere else.

“What we need to do is take the resources and match that up with other people that have time, energy and some funding, at a community level.”

He pointed out that the Gabriola Health Care Foundation and the building of the Community Health Centre “is a perfect example of what you can do when people have a common end point.

“To get a building built - without going through the channels and prioritization. The community just went and did it.

“What we need to do is ask how to match that up in a mindful way alongside Island Health resources.”

The first goal according to Digney is talking to Gabriola, talking to the doctors, and getting a sense of what is already happening on the island.

“Asking what is some low hanging fruit that we can use our resources for to achieve goals.”

His example is to ask if there’s a way to prevent off-island health care staff being stuck in a ferry lineup instead of seeing patients.

Currently, if a staff person is going off island at the end of the day, he/she has to be in line 45 minutes or so ahead of the actual loading of the ferry.

That’s 45 minutes, according to Digney, which is wasted time when that staff person could be seeing patients.

He’d like to work things out with BC Ferries so that Island Health staff heading off island can have priority loading and not have to line up to get off Gabriola.

“There is no sense to having someone sitting in a car rather than sitting in front of a patient. Having that resource sitting there is a waste, has a zero value.

“I’m sure the vast majority of the people would also agree they would let a nurse go to the front of the line - rather than sit in a car for the time to look after patients.

“There’s a simple win-win where we can increase the services by not spending money.”

Common sense items like that are also why Digney sees the need to have local input coming in to Island Health.

As part of this reorganization, there is now a community director (Shelley McKenzie) and medical director (Dr. Derek Poteryko) assigned specifically to the Nanaimo-Oceanside area (which includes Gabriola).

Digney said McKenzie’s sole job is to oversee the resources and service delivery in the Naniamo-Oceanside communities.

“That is new - up till now - that role and focus was a region-wide service with staff usually based out of Victoria. We’ve made a real investment to be able to put that resource into who has that focus - I think there is value in that.”

Digney said Island Health is also creating networks of care in each community.

He used Cowichan Now as an example: a consortium of community groups that have come together and are representing the area when meeting with representatives from Island Health to look for gaps and how to fill those gaps.

“As we get our feet under us, one of the things we need to set up is to have a similar network on Gabriola.”

Asked what that might look like down the road, Digney said things are way too new to say.

Even the area including Gabriola is still unnamed, simply referred to as “Geography 2, Nanaimo, Oceanside, Alberni, West Coast and Gabriola.”

The long-term plan for the reorganization is to have public consultation - both in the form of online feedback and open community meetings. The timeline for when that will happen is also still being determined.

Digney said even the preliminary meetings on Gabriola with doctors and representatives from the Gabriola Health Care Foundation (GHCF) bore fruit.

“We were so impressed with Gabriola. This is a community that really has it together and is a poster child for integrating what the community can do and how we can link in.

“To get that clinic through the normal channels would have taken a long time, or not have happened at all, because of prioritizations.”

Digney said the model of the Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee could be used as a way to set up a health care advisory committee.

“The long-term goal is to have a community advisory committee - the intent is there.”

Who is on that committee, be they representatives of the GHCF, the doctors, People for a Healthy Committee or other interested parties, is also something Island Health will be working on as they move forward.

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Collaborating with Communities for Health

Island Health Press Release, Sounder News, Tuesday, August 11 2015

People are served best when health decisions are focused on the unique needs of their community.

Island Health is committed to building community partnerships that will make the most of local knowledge and strengthen the network of care in communities like Gabriola Island.

Island Health has undertaken a significant organizational shift and realigned its service and administrative structure to a community-based model.

This will better support local decision-making and deliver care that is driven by patients to better meet their needs and improve their health-care experiences.

Work is already underway to build partnerships with Gabriola community health leaders, including the Gabriola Chapter of the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice, the Gabriola Health Care Foundation and the Mental Health Substance Use Committee.

Representatives from these groups met recently with Island Health leaders, including Suzanne Fox and Dr. Drew Digney, the Executive Director and Executive Medical Director of the geographic region that includes Gabriola, to discuss the current and future needs of their community.

“Gabriola Island is an amazing example of what can be achieved when a community works together to develop health services,” said Digney.

“There are a lot of challenges ahead but I’m really excited about building relationships on the Island and working to address some of the health issues facing the community.”

Sustaining and improving current service levels, home and community care needs and mental health services have all been identified by as issues of concern on Gabriola Island. Another meeting will be held in the fall to address these issues and others in more details.

“This meeting was a positive first step,” said Dr. Francois Bosman, physician lead for the Gabriola Chapter of the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice.

“We look forward to collaborating with Island Health to find solutions that provide quality, sustainable health services for our community.”

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Gabriola woman almost gives birth aboard ferry

Julie Chadwick, Nanaimo Daly News, April 2, 2015


It was a close call for one Gabriola Islander who almost gave birth on the afternoon ferry bound for Nanaimo on Friday.

The woman was in a vehicle with her husband and midwife and did not inform the crew that she was in labour until after departure, said B.C. Ferries spokeswoman Deborah Marshall.

An ambulance met the woman on the Nanaimo side in the ferry parking lot and the baby was born at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital less than half an hour later.

Though the incident highlights the issue of access to service that many Islanders experience, Gabriola residents are also well served by the community clinic that exists on-island, said Janice Kerr, office manager for the Gabriola Medical Clinic. The majority of Islanders' medical emergencies are typically solved without the patient having to leave the island, she said.

"About 80 per cent of the emergencies that came in, if we hadn't been here they would have gone either to the walk-in clinics or the emergency room at the hospital," said Kerr. "So we keep (most) of them here on the island, thereby saving the system quite a bit of money." Most births are attended to at home with a midwife or at the hospital in Nanaimo, though two babies have been born at the clinic on Gabriola since it opened in 2012.

The 9,000 square-foot clinic is result of a community effort spearheaded by the Gabriola Health Care Society, who collectively raised the $1.4 million necessary for construction to commence on 1.6 hectares of donated land.

There is a medical emergency on-Island almost every day, said Kerr.

Another advantage of treating most medical issues on-island is that it saves people the inconvenience of traveling across. "Unfortunately when they do end up in hospital they're sometimes discharged in the evening when it's too late for them to get home. That's always an issue for Gabriolans," she said.

There is a helicopter service for urgent cases that cannot be transported by ferry.

Residents are typically patient when it comes to delays or inconveniences with the ferry due to medical issues, said Steven Earle, Gabriola Ferry Advisory Committee and Islands Trust Transportation Advisory Commission member.

"Gabriolans are used to it, they don't have any problem with it, because they know that one day it could be them," said Earle.

JChadwick@nanaimodailynews.com 250-729-4238

© Nanaimo Daily News


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Gabriola Community Health Centre at full capacity

Gabriola Health Care Foundation Press Release, Monday, December 1, 2014

The Gabriola Health Care Foundation (GHCF) would like to announce that the building has reached full tenancy, now that tenants have been confirmed for the last large available spaces on the lower floor of the Gabriola Community Health Centre. (Lower entrance seen above)

In a press release sent to the Sounder, the Board said it is, “delighted that these tenants have chosen the Community Health Centre, both for the healthcare service options they provide to Gabriolans as well as the contribution their tenancy will provide in securing the financial stability of the facility.”

The main floor of the Centre is occupied on one side by the Gabriola Medical Clinic and the three doctors practicing out of there. On the other side is the Urgent Treatment Facility.

Downstairs, registered massage therapist Tammy Tanner and Dr. Paul Koltronis have joined LifeLabs Medical Laboratory Services and Island Health’s Home and Community Care as tenants of the ground level of the building.

Tanner currently offers massage therapy four days a week to Gabriolans and visitors. Dr. Koltronis, who sees many Gabriola patients at his primary office in Nanaimo, is expanding his practise to offer a dental clinic focused on oral hygiene services. Plans are in the works to open his Gabriola clinic early in the new year.

Chuck Connor, president of GHCF said, “Charged with the responsibility for the Community Health Centre and enhancing the healthcare services available to Gabriolans, the board must focus on managing the use of the facility so that it is able to fulfill its mandates both today and in the long term.”

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$10,000 grant from Health Care Foundation to help PHC provide mental health services
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Derek Kilbourn, Sounder News, Monday, July 01, 2014

The Gabriola Health Care Foundation (GHCF) has provided a grant of $10,000 to the People for a Healthy Community on Gabriola Society (PHC) to enable the expansion of PHC’s low cost/no cost counselling services.

Brenda Fowler, PHC Executive Director, said the monies will be used, “by our registered clinical counsellor to offer services to people who require help figuring out the complexities of their lives.

“Food, housing and mental health are all connected very closely. This money helps us put the third stool leg [mental health treatment] in place, it will make a world of difference to their lives.”

Nancy Rowan, Vice-President of the Foundation said, “on behalf of the GHCF program’s committee, I am very pleased to support the PHC in their efforts to extend the scope of mental health services available to their clients and the community at large.”

She presented the cheque for $10,000 to PHC Chair Charlie Cheffins this past week.

Fowler explained, “one of the commitments to the Foundation is we track how many clients we are able to help. Each client, depending on the complexity of the issue, is targeted to have four sessions, each session takes 1.5 hours.”

She said it is difficult to know how many clients are helped, as come clients need more help than others.

So while there will be a record kept of how many clients are helped, the program funding is tracked by total hours provided.

“We have had two or three complex cases over the winter.”

Fowler said part of the initiative came in response to the work the ad hoc Committee on Suicide Prevention has been doing in the community, “raising the awareness in the community for the need for good mental health and how isolation contributes to a person’s state of mind.

“It’s raised the consciousness of the community. That’s why I wrote and asked the Foundation for their support in this specific program area.

“It is all part of knitting together of a healthy community. The portion the Foundation is helping us with is the very program that is the Achilles heel of our community.”

Rowan added, “mental health services are a major issue in communities. It is something that a lot of the divisions of the doctors of BC have been looking at and is something that will be looked at closer here in the future.”

PHC is a federally registered charity that plays a front-line role within high risk groups on Gabriola. Demands for mental health services from a population that is unable to afford clinical counselling far exceed current capabilities. This grant will enable PHC to increase its existing pro bono counselling services, reducing the stress and isolation clients are experiencing. It is anticipated that the increased counselling services will improve clients’ self-reliance, positive coping skills, and engagement in relevant community programs.

GHCF is also a federally registered charity with a broad focus on improving primary health care for the residents and the visitors to Gabriola. This grant is consistent with the Foundation’s specific purpose of collaborating with other community organizations to develop and deliver programs to address identified health care needs

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Health foundation donates $10,000 to PHC counselling program
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The Flying Shingle, Monday, June 30, 2014

Gabriola Health Care Foundation Vice-president Nancy Rowan (centre) holds up a cheque for $10,000 that her foundation has given to People for a Healthy Community (PHC). Rowan is flanked by PHC Executive Director Brenda Fowler (left) and PHC President Charlie Cheffins. ~ Photo by Chris Bowers
People for a Healthy Community (PHC) has ten thousand reasons to be grateful to the Gabriola Health Care Foundation (GHCF), thanks to the donation of a cheque in that amount for PHC’s low cost/no cost counselling services.

In presenting the cheque to PHC’s President Charlie Cheffins, and Executive Director Brenda Fowler, GHCF’s Vice-President Nancy Rowan said: “On behalf of the GHCF Programs Committee, I’m very pleased to support PHC in their efforts to extend the scope of mental health services to their clients and to the community at large.

Fowler said: “The money will be used by our Registered Clinical counsellor, to offer clinical counselling services to people who require help figuring out the complexities of their lives”.

“Food, housing, and good mental health are closely connected,” Fowler said, “and this money helps us put that third stool-leg in place and it will mean a world of difference to our clients and to the community”.

Noting that the complexity of clients’ needs vary, and that the funding will be divided between meeting time, follow up, and preparatory time, Fowler said how many people will be served by those funds “is a tricky question”. However, she said, “these additional funds will allow the clinical counsellor to see at least two more people in a week, for a typical period of up to four sessions”.

“Part of this initiative is in response to the work the ad hoc committee on suicide prevention has been doing in the community,” Fowler said, “and raising the awareness in the community about the need for good mental health and how isolation contributes to people” not doing well. She said this has “raised the consciousness of the community, and that’s why I wrote to the foundation and asked them for their support in this specific program area. Because it’s all part of that knitting together of a healthier community.”

She said the lack of such services on Gabriola “is the Achilles heel of our community”.

Rowan said access to mental health services is a major issue in both rural and urban communities. She said many BC doctors are recognising this issue, and “it will be something that is looked at more closely here in the future”.

A GHCF press release notes that PHC “is a federally registered charity that plays a front-line role within high risk groups on Gabriola. … It is anticipated that the increased counselling services will improve clients’ self-reliance, positive coping skills, and engagement in relevant community programs”.

The press release also notes that “GHCF is also a federally registered charity with a broad focus on improving primary health care for the residents and the visitors to Gabriola. This grant is consistent with the foundation’s specific purpose of collaborating with other community organisations to develop and deliver programs to address identified health care needs.”

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