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Health-care forum in B.C. focuses on improving care for seniors

Building stronger supports to meet the needs of seniors through simplified patient pathways, more flexible home care and reduced hospital visits was the main focus of a two-day meeting involving provincial health-care partners recently held in British Columbia.

June 16, 2015  By Massage Therapy Canada staff

B.C. Ministry of Health brought together representatives from a broad
cross-section of the health sector, from family physicians, home-care
nurses and residential-care providers to home- and community-care staff
and patients, for a working session on finding concrete actions to
improve primary and community care for seniors.

“This forum was a
great opportunity for stakeholders to talk about a truly integrated
health system that works for seniors, with a much stronger focus on care
in the community to help people stay healthy and in their homes
longer,” said Minister Terry Lake. “The current primary- and
community-care system is comprehensive, but not always optimally
designed to address patient needs, and we need simple and clear pathways
to streamline access.”

Care providers and administrators from 10
communities – Abbotsford, Comox, Cowichan, Kamloops, Kelowna, Langley,
the North Shore, Prince George, Vancouver and Vanderhoof – strategized
on different ways of working together in their community so the system
better supports elderly patients. The teams are now developing proposals
to implement as prototypes for models of care that other communities
can follow.

Actions will include making home supports more
flexible, and actively identifying seniors at risk of decline so
home-care services can be provided proactively. Care providers in
different areas of the health system will work together on care plans,
allowing for more co-ordinated care and rapid response to frail seniors’
changing health status.


More direct, expedited access to
diagnostics when required will also be explored, to give elderly
patients an alternative to going to hospital. Multidisciplinary care
teams – which could include doctors, nurse practitioners, nurses,
physiotherapists, pharmacists, or dieticians – may also be set up to
specifically target care for high-risk seniors to provide more
co-ordinated, proactive primary care.

“It was encouraging to see
the level of engagement by so many leaders in the health-care system to
address the issue of improving care for seniors,” said B.C. seniors
advocate Isobel MacKenzie, who also attended the two-day session.
“Including the voice of actual seniors in the forum shows a commitment
to listening to the needs of seniors.”

The forum also discussed
ways to enable short-terms stays in residential care for respite,
assessment or stabilizing a short-term health issue to prevent hospital
admissions for episodes that can be managed through community care.

want to make it easy for those needing care to access it,” added Lake.
“Right now when you need nursing care at home, you have to go through a
long intake process that can take days or even weeks. Sometimes it’s
easier for doctors to just send patients to the ER, which puts pressure
on the system. We need to give clinicians tools to make choices that
best serve the patient, so they don’t have to just prescribe a pill or
send someone to the hospital because there isn’t another good option.”

in attendance will take the ideas back to their communities and work on
them over the summer. Another session will be held in September to
finalize plans, which will begin rolling out in the fall. The prototype
communities will then provide models for other areas of the province to
implement over the next year.

The two-day gathering centred on
the ministry’s “Setting Priorities for the B.C. Health System”, an
overarching strategy to create a more sustainable health system that
supports people to stay healthy, while providing high-quality, publicly
funded health-care services that better meet their needs when they are

To address these priorities, a series of policy papers has
been developed, outlining the need for action. The papers focus on
primary and community care, rural health and surgical services, as well
as health human resources and information management and technology.

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