Latest posts by Chris Marchand (see all)
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By Chris Marchand
Dryden may not be the centre of the health care universe, but if you’re studying how rural communities organize and integrate services to overcome the challenges of remote medicine, then Dryden just might be ground zero in the Province of Ontario.
The President and CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, Anthony Dale says his recent visit to Dryden Regional Health Centre (DRHC) helped him get better acquainted with the ‘health hub’ model which DRHC has naturally evolved into as it services residents from a large rural catchment area.
“The people of Dryden may not know but they have, in Wade Petranik (hospital CEO), a very effective advocate at the provincial level for rural and remote health issues,” said Dale. “Wade has been a real leader within the hospital sector for the creation of a ‘health hub’ model to serve rural and remote communities. That’s an area that the OHA has taken a lot of interest in and tried to advance at the provincial levels. This community is a kind of exemplar for the kind of vision that can be achieved in different parts of the province.”
Dale says the local Family Health Team — one of the first in the province — is also one of the top examples in the province of how hospitals can make best use of the resources it can provide.
“The thing that stands out for me the most is the Family Health Team,” said Dale. “It’s very large, comprehensive and very a collaborative partnership between the hospital and physician community and I can see how much it’s doing to improve access to services for people here.”
The Family Health Team uses allied health professionals to help patients manage chronic or non-emergent health issues in close to 20 programs, from diabetes to menopause.
Petranik says the key to getting patients involved in the Family Health Team and not drawing on clinic, or emergency resources is in the transition from the primary care or hospital settings.
“We have people from the Family Health Team visit in-patients in the hospital and hook them up with resources and programs post discharge so that they know there are all these supports for them to match whatever issues they’re having. We have nurses visiting people in their homes to make sure they’re taking their medications properly and dealing with any questions they may have. It’s great that we have the flexibility to do that, whereas in other communities where there may not have the same level of integration it’s more difficult to get everyone on side and doing those things.”
Petranik says challenges persist for health care providers and clients in the Northwest.
“The geography is a big issue,” said Petranik. “Long distances and a small population. The province is moving more towards a population-based funding system — it funds activity, rather than capacity which is a challenge for us. When new money gets invested in community care and other things we get a smaller piece of a shrinking pie. If you want to provide core services in a community there are certain fixed costs.”
Petranik says home care and supportive housing services aren’t as well-developed in rural areas, an area he says Dryden will have to address in an effort to care for its aging population.
Dale says the funding situation is unlikely to change anytime soon either.
‘The provincial government is facing a very large deficit and continues to stick its target of balancing the budget by 2017-18,” said Dale. “Across the province, hospital budgets have been frozen for four years. That challenge has forced a lot of people to think and do things differently. In general it’s important that we modernize care to reduce reliance on hospitals where it’s appropriate and we continue to expand capacity outside of the hospitals, especially in home and community services.”