Posted on 07 March 2013 by Keith Lacey
Members of Town of Osoyoos council heard how Interior Health is committed to allowing local residents to recover from the majority of medical issues in the comfort of their own home.
Lori Motluk, acute area director for the South Okanagan district of Interior Health, made a presentation to members of town council on Monday detailing plans of forming community health care teams that will be able to provide more and more health care services to residents at home rather than in a hospital setting.
“We’re following the concept of home is best when it comes to providing the majority of health care services,” said Motluk. “We’ve known for a long time that familiarity is best, especially for the frail and elderly.”
Almost 48 per cent of residents who live in the South Okanagan are between the ages of 45 and 74, meaning this region has one of the highest demographics of middle age and senior citizens in the entire province, she said.
“The good news is we’re living longer, but that comes with an increase in chronic care needs,” she said.
Having an older population also means there are more complex health care needs, a higher incidence of chronic disease and increase in demand for care, said Motluk.
The biggest challenge moving forward is providing quality health care in the South Okanagan and dealing with key areas like chronic conditions, mental illness, cancer and conditions affecting the frail and elderly.
The Ministry of Health strategy for British Columbia is to shift from reactive programs to proactive care, which will reduce the need for high-cost hospital visits and residential care services and help people remain healthy in their own homes for as long as possible, she said.
When people accessing health care are allowed to access services from the comfort of their own home, there is a lower risk of infection, lower risk of falls and a quicker return to independence and functionality, she said. One recent study indicated that a frail senior who spends 24 hours sitting idle in a hospital bed can lose up to five per cent of muscle mass from being inactive and can lead to extended recovery periods once they’re released from hospital, she said.
For those who can’t recover at home, Interior Health is committed to providing quality convalescent, respite and palliative care services, assisted living and residential care for those who need long-term assistance, said Motluk.
The ministry and Interior Health are also committed to improving services for those suffering from mental health issues.
“The health care system hasn’t done a great job generally in dealing with mental health,” she said.
The hiring of hundreds of nurse practitioners across the province has improved access to services for tens of thousands of clients as they are able to diagnose, prescribe medicine and order tests, she said.
A huge focus in the South Okanagan is continuing to pressure the government to build the proposed $300-million ambulatory care tower at the Penticton Regional Hospital, said Motluk.
The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has already committed $120 million to the project, while the hospital’s fundraising foundation is committed to raising another $20 million, she said.
The project, which has been deemed the No. 1 priority on Interior Health’s list in the province, needs a final commitment of $160 million from the provincial government for the project to proceed and construction to begin, she said.
All health care practitioners who work for Interior Health will continue to pound home the message that simple precautions like exercising at least 30 minutes a day, controlling weight, eating well and not smoking can help fend off a large majority of health problems and chronic diseases, she said.
Mayor Stu Wells asked what council can do to ensure the new tower gets built at Penticton Regional Hospital.
Motluk said the amount of community support has been tremendous and urged municipal leaders to continue to apply pressure on the province to provide necessary funding.
“We sort of feel it’s our time,” she said.
Wells said Osoyoos council has voiced its opinion in support of the expansion and will continue to do so.
“I think we should make the required noise needed,” he said.
Wells thanked Motluk for her presentation and said many of the initiatives Interior Health are looking at implementing will have a major impact in this community.
Motluk said anyone with opinions on the health care system in the South Okanagan can visit www.patientvoices.ca or call 1-877-442-2001.