As 2018 approaches, it is a great opportunity to reflect on the past year. On behalf of Interior Health, it is my pleasure to recap some highlights.
Of course the biggest story of 2017 was the wildfires that tore across several communities. In total 19 hospitals, health centres and residential care homes were evacuated. Close to 880 patients and home health clients, along with hundreds of employees and physicians, were forced to leave their homes. I am so impressed by the teams who came together to make sure patients were well taken care of, even when care providers had to improvise and make the best of limited space and supplies.
Sadly another crisis continues – the opioid overdose public health emergency took more than 1,200 lives this year in B.C. We are on track to have the previously announced 73 substance use treatment beds open this year; these include 57 support recovery beds (eight support recovery beds opened in 2016 in the East Kootenay in partnership with Ktunaxa Nation and East Kootenay Addiction Services Society) and 17 withdrawal management beds. We have also implemented mobile supervised consumption services in Kamloops and Kelowna this year.
Despite these efforts a record number of people were lost this year to opioid overdose deaths. Thank you to everyone on the frontline working to help address addiction, mitigate overdose risk, and address the damaging stigma that persists around mental health and substance use issues.
At a local level, I would like to acknowledge October’s tragic ammonia leak in Fernie. I thank the care providers who stepped up to meet the health needs of the community during this emergency.
On a brighter note, there are several projects to celebrate at Cranbrook’s East Kootenay Regional Hospital:
· In October we announced construction for EKRH’s first permanent MRI machine.
· Young patients will receive care in a brand new pediatric unit.
· More than $600,000 in upgrades have been completed in Diagnostic Imaging.
Use of MyHealthPortal continues to grow. Introduced last year, there are now more than 30,000 patients accessing their personal health information online using this secure online tool.
Our relationships with Indigenous communities also continue to develop as we deepen our understanding of cultural humility and what that means in a health-care setting. We now have two dedicated educators working to build awareness within our staff and this year we announced a dedicated Indigenous recruiter in an effort to attract and retain more Indigenous employees.
The next year promises more good news as construction wraps up on the 243 residential care beds announced last year – including 30 beds at Joseph Creek Village in Cranbrook.
Since joining Interior Health in September, I have been getting to know the organization, its leadership and the communities we serve. This included a recent visit to the East Kootenays where I enjoyed meeting many staff, volunteers and community leaders. I look forward to a fulfilling term serving Interior Health area residents.
Wishing you a happy New Year,