“Exciting” is not usually a word one would associate with health care. But that is exactly how Katherine Brown, Revelstoke’s new Health Care Development Project Manager, describes what’s happening in the community as a result of several health care programs that have recently launched or are poised to launch in the near future.
Most Revelstoke residents are familiar with larger projects like the new helipad at Queen Victoria Hospital, a community-funded project that was years in the making. Hiding in the shadows are the smaller, lower-profile programs and projects being undertaken by local physicians, administrators, and community organizations on an ongoing basis.
Revelstoke’s 16 physicians are working hard to design and implement new programs to improve access to health care services at Queen Victoria Hospital, in local clinics, and beyond. With services often centred in major cities, this kind of rural health care advocacy is key to ensuring Revelstoke citizens have the best possible access to care.
What makes Revelstoke unique is that most of the physicians who work in local clinics also provide 24/7 emergency room coverage at the hospital — as well as surgical, obstetrical, and anesthetic services — meaning that patients can access these services closer to home rather than needing to travel to larger centres for care. Revelstoke has four family physicians with enhanced surgical skills, three Family Practice Anaesthetists, one with expertise in care of the elderly, and eight that deliver babies.
“The B.C. Ministry of Health has been listening to the voices of physicians over the last 10 years saying we want to be change-makers in our communities, we want to move ahead with initiatives that are priorities in our towns — help us do that,” Dr. Victoria Haines said. “When we started getting wind that some funding opportunities were coming up, immediately we thought we must move on this.”
Doctors are ideally positioned to identify gaps in health care delivery and find creative, grassroots solutions to fill them. They spend their working days at the clinic or hospital seeing patients, and after hours at the emergency room. They know the issues and hear complaints and suggestions from patients daily.
Once doctors are equipped with this information, the challenge is finding the time to do the work it takes to bring in new programs to improve care.
“Doctors get paid for an encounter with a patient,” Haines explained. “To spend evenings writing emails, submitting proposals to governments to improve community services is all volunteer. Most of us are devoted inescapably to that because it matters, we care. Often, we’re doing volunteer work at night after our kids and partners have gone to bed.
“It gets exhausting and leads to burn out.”
That’s where Katherine Brown comes in. To help get projects off the ground, local doctors applied for and received funding to hire a project manager in 2017. They hired Brown, who brought a decade of experience writing proposals for companies from across North America. She and her husband, originally from Ontario, moved to Revelstoke in 2010 after a weekend visit and now raise two young children in the community. After ten years of working from home, Brown seized an opportunity to get out into the community and contribute to improving health care for local residents — a cause she passionately believes in.
“When a need, or a gap in health care in identified by a physician, knowing Katherine is there to capture it and help us move it forward, is reassuring,” says Dr. Kate McCarroll. “Change in any complex system takes time, resources and serious commitment.”
Brown works for three organizations, all designed to give Revelstoke community physicians a voice at the table when health care decisions are made at regional and provincial levels. Her first role is with the Divisions of Family Practice, which Revelstoke doctors joined in 2016. This organization receives funding from Doctors of BC and the Ministry of Health to empower family physicians to work collaboratively with community and health care partners to enhance local patient care.
In her second role, Brown is the Facility Engagement Project Manager at Queen Victoria Hospital, supporting collaborative work between hospital-based physicians and the health authority.
Brown is also the Local Coordinator for the Rural Surgical and Obstetrics Network, a provincial initiative that aims to fortify surgical and obstetrical services at small rural hospitals. Queen Victoria Hospital was selected as one of eight rural hospitals to be part of the $27 million provincial program earlier this year.
“In a larger urban centre this would be three full-time positions, but because we’re rural, and most of our doctors work across the community and the hospital, it makes sense for me to also work across the various initiatives at both the hospital and community level,” Brown told me. “Providing support at both levels makes it easier to connect programs and resources across our community.”
Revelstoke physicians — with Brown’s support — have worked with Interior Health, community organizations, referral hospitals, and specialists to successfully launch several new health care initiatives that will have a significant positive impact on the community. And, according to Brown, more are in the works.
“My position was originally for 16 hours a week, but it’s turned into 50 plus,” said Brown. “It’s snowballed — we’ve gotten so busy with so many different things that we’ve hired an admin support person and I work full time.”
Brown supports the local doctors who have spurred these improvements to care by obtaining program development funding and coordinating work with local, regional, and provincial partners.
“Health care is so complex,” she said. “There are so many moving parts that you’re constantly having to coordinate and figure out how to move forward.”
Recent project successes include the implementation of the Seniors’ Health and Wellness Centre and the dental program, both located at Queen Victoria Hospital.
Other local projects—some already underway, and some that are set to launch in the near future—will be featured in a series of articles over the coming months. These include:
- revelstokelife.ca – A new website set to launch in December that will provide information about all local health and social services in our community.
- A project to explore a sustainable maternity model which includes midwifery. Following a successful funding application, the project is due to begin in December this year.
- Revelstoke Secondary School medical clinic pilot project – success of this project will lead to pursuit of a sustainable model of funding with Interior Health partners.
- Addictions Clinic – Weekly addictions services at QVH,where an addictions physician and multidisciplinary team provide holistic treatment in person and via Telehealth.
- Rural Surgical and Obstetrical Program – A new $27 million provincial program that will expand the scale and scope of surgery that can be conducted in rural BC hospitals, including Queen Victoria Hospital in Revelstoke.
These projects are only the beginning. Dr. Haines says we would like to conduct community surveys to get even more feedback about health care in Revelstoke.
“I think that’s a piece that’s been missing to some extent,” she explained. “We can talk to our patients, care partners, and friends, but that’s not the same as collating data from community interviews, looking for trends, and charting what’s important and what we should prioritize. We’d like to focus on that in key areas like surgical services, maternity services, seniors care, and chronic pain management services.”
Meanwhile, Brown is always on the lookout for funding for other projects.
“I found out last week about significant provincial funding available to support work on chronic pain management and better coordination of care for seniors in the community,” she told me. “I’ll start looking at that – getting a team together to find out how we can leverage these types of funds to continue to enhance services in Revelstoke now, and in the coming years.”
This article was contributed to the Mountaineer by the Revelstoke Health Services Project Team.