Fraser Health CEO updates Agassiz

Michael Marchbank says Agassiz Primary Clinic work is "invaluable"

Fraser Health’s top officer came to the last District of Kent Council meeting to provide an update on Fraser Health initiatives and priorities.

Michael Marchbank, Fraser Health president and chief executive officer, along with Petra Pardy, executive director for Chilliwack, Hope and Agassiz Health Services, made the presentation. Agassiz and Harrison Hot Springs are within the Fraser Health region, which spans from Burnaby to Boston Bar. Marchbank emphasized the size and scope of Fraser Health’s coverage, including 20 communities, 2,500 physicians and 12 hospitals. They serve more than 1.7 million people, provide home support to more than 12,000 patients in the region and even do more than 11,000 restaurant inspections each year in an effort to help keep citizens healthy.

In regards to local services, Marchbank highlighted the Agassiz Primary Care Clinic, saying it’s a “leading example” of how Fraser Health wants to provide services in smaller communities.

He said the local clinic acts as a hub for the eastern valley and the work done at the clinic is “invaluable,” adding, “We’re very pleased with the Agassiz Primary Care Clinic.”

Marchbank touched on the recent return of Agassiz’ respite bed.

“We do want to make sure that bed gets used more than it was,” he cautioned.

He scrolled through several benchmarks Fraser Health uses to track their success. In regards to Chilliwack General Hospital, Marchbank said capacity for the hospital is an area they need to continue to work hard on to address.

“Adding more beds is not the answer,” he told Council. He says the more beds you add, the more beds you use. Instead, Fraser Health is choosing to add more staff and increased supports in the community.

“Staying in a hospital when you don’t need to be there is not the best place of anybody,” said Marchbank.

Councillors had a few comments for the health officials. Councillor Sylvia Pranger reminded Marchbank that finding as many opportunities for residents to stay in Agassiz for health-related needs benefits everybody.

”It saves time, money and stress,” she said, later adding, “We are a rural community that needs health care services as much as anyone.”

Another point of discussion was the desire to retain the services of international doctors who move to Agassiz then move away once their contract is up. Pardy spoke up at this point, saying they are always looking to recruit new physicians and admitting it is hard to retain them. She would like to discuss with the current doctors in Agassiz and Hope what would encourage them to stay.

Councillor Darcy Striker asked about the GP For Me program. Pardy said there has been progress on the plan to connect unattached patients to doctors in the Fraser Valley. She highlighted the PAM program (Patient Attachment Mechanism), a number residents can call to connect with a doctor.

In the BC Legislature, Health minister Terry Lake spoke about the GP For Me program in response to NDP health critic Judy Darcy’s questioning during Question period April 27. Darcy stated that in spite of the five-year-old promise that every British Columbian would have a family doctor by 2015, “there are still hundreds of thousands of British Columbians without a family doctor.”

Lake admitted it is a “challenge”, not only here but across North America. He said there are currently 16 per cent of residents who do not have a family doctor.

“We are working extremely hard creating divisions of family practice that work hard with family physicians to increase their capacity to attach patients to family practice,” said Lake.

Lake went on to explain that the GP For Me program has matched more than 54,600 patients with family physicians.

If you currently do not have a family doctor, the GP For Me program is available to you by calling PAM at 604-795-0034 or 1-844-795-0034.

Pardy’s full new role is executive director for Chilliwack, Hope and Agassiz Health Services and Chilliwack General and Fraser Canyon Hospitals. According to a letter sent to local government, “Petra will work to ensure the vision and priorities for Chilliwack, Hope and Agassiz Health Services, and Chilliwack General and Fraser Canyon hospitals continue to align with Fraser Health’s strategic and operational plan.”