(Contributed/Dreamstime)

Relationships, continuity top health-care concerns for Agassiz residents

Feedback during Fraser Health events showed access to health care needs to improve

Better relationships with health-care providers and better access to services were among the top issues outlined by Agassiz and Hope residents during two community engagement events in December.

On Dec. 4 and 6, people from the Fraser Health Rural area were invited to share their thoughts on the future of health care in the region. It was part of a move toward an “integrated primary care network,” a kind of health care that consolidates medical services into a single network or location.

At the events, residents were asked about their thoughts on several topics that are key to integrated care: access and attachment, cultural safety and humility, and comprehensiveness.

RELATED: New regional health care model focuses on needs of Fraser Valley communities

For Agassiz and Harrison residents, many concerns stemmed from the high turnover of physicians in the community and the lack of continuity with service providers.

According to a report released by the Chilliwack Division of Family Practice and Fraser Health about the events, many residents aren’t willing to leave doctors in other communities for one in Agassiz who may leave after two years.

Internationally-trained doctors are able to work in Canada on a two-year contract, which is a barrier to creating stable relationships with patients, the report noted. Residents said there needed to be better retention efforts and better succession planning to avoid these issues. The difficulty of transferring electronic medical records between doctors added to these concerns.

Residents also questioned the use of the patient attachment mechanism (PAM) were also present, as they felt the online registry that connects patients to doctors is not accessible for people lacking digital literacy skills ad doesn’t address community needs.

Education on available services was also important for Agassiz residents, especially in the wake of the closure of Agassiz’s previous walk-in clinic around 2014. (The Agassiz Community Health Centre now runs a walk-in clinic two days a week, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.)

RELATED: Agassiz Community Health Centre to offer walk-in appointments

Some residents said the old walk-in clinic wasn’t well-known enough in the community, and future closures could be avoided by creating a hub of community resources, hiring a health services coordinator or focusing on education through posters and bulletin emails.

In Hope, transportation was at the top of residents’ concerns. Many residents have to travel to receive medical attention, and limitations on the area’s bus service often make that difficult.

Solutions such as extending Care Transit or creating a HandyDART-like service to transport patients were mentioned during the event, but others also brought up the idea of “virtual care” which would allow residents to receive some kinds of care from their home.

Hope residents also said there was a need for more services at the Fraser Canyon Hospital.

Both Hope and Agassiz residents said that extended hours, shorter wait times, longer appointments and more inclusive care environments were important for the future of health care in the region.

The results of this public engagement show that residents have some concerns about how health care is distributed in the Fraser Health rural area. But what changes will be made because of their feedback remains to be seen.

“Achieving the attributes of the Primary Care Network is a long-term journey,” the report reads. “This information provided by residents … is only the first step in information the Fraser Health Rural service plan.”

The report said there will be more opportunities to comment on health care in the region in 2019, although there are no details on what those will look like at this point.

Correction: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the Agassiz Community Health Centre was open for walk-ins on Tuesdays and Wednesdays. It is actually open Tuesdays and Thursdays. The article has been changed to reflect this correction and we regret the error.



grace.kennedy@ahobserver.com

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