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Posted: December 27, 2016

Interior Health year in review

IH Chair Erwin MalzerBy Erwin Malzer,

Interior Health Board Chair

This is a busy time of year, but I find it’s also a time of reflection, particularly as January marks the end of my two-year term as Chair and my 10 years serving on the Board of Interior Health.

In an effort to decrease demand on hospital and residential services, we continue to shift our focus to integrated primary and community care. We are developing new approaches and solutions that will benefit patients while making our health care system more sustainable.

This year also had good news for individuals who may require residential care with the announcement of 243 additional beds, including 30 in Cranbrook.

There were several other important announcements this year.

Since June, MyHealthPortal has been introduced at nine hospital locations, with more to come. More than 2,300 patients have enrolled to obtain secure 24-hour access to their health information via their smart phone, tablet or computer through a portal from the Interior Health website, inviting patients to take more ownership of their health care. MyHealthPortal is expected to launch in the Kootenays in spring 2017.

Since an initial launch in 2015, community paramedics have been hired in the prototype communities of Creston and Princeton. The second round of hiring for the remaining communities is now occurring. This initiative is the first of its kind in Canada and will provide residents of rural and remote communities with better access to primary health care and a more stabilized paramedic presence for emergency response.

It’s amazing what we can accomplish together – for example a new $5.3 million partnership with the Kootenay East Regional Hospital District, East Kootenay Foundation for Health, and Cranbrook Health Care Auxiliary means a new permanent Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) machine for East Kootenay Regional Hospital, expected to go live in 2018.

Three local estate donations allowed Interior Health to complete a $650,000 major renovation to the Creston Valley Hospital and Health Centre emergency department. Renovations were completed this spring.

The tremendous support of our foundation and auxiliary partners in the East Kootenay continues to benefit patients from these communities.

A newly redeveloped ICU and major electric upgrades were completed at East Kootenay Regional Hospital in the spring and Interior Health is now moving forward on redeveloping the hospital’s pediatric unit. (Lead image above shows ribbon cutting. e-KNOW file photo)

While the last year had several milestones that are to be celebrated, it also had its share of heartbreak, as we saw record numbers of overdose deaths in many Interior Health communities and across the province.

Each of these deaths represents a loss no doubt deeply felt in many homes this holiday season. In response, we’ve established an Emergency Incident Management Team to focus on enhanced fatal and non-fatal overdose surveillance, and increased accessibility to harm reduction tools including Take Home Naloxone (THN) kits. We are exploring Safe Consumption Services (SCS) in our highest risk communities, scaling-up substance use services for people who use drugs that are at highest risk of overdose, and providing population based education and prevention.

Still it is clear we need to do more, and we were excited when 73 new substance use treatment beds were announced in April, including 57 support recovery beds and 16 withdrawal management beds for communities across Interior Health.

Health care is something I have always been passionate about and I intend to continue to focus on through board work, consulting, and participating in conferences. For example, I have just been appointed by the Health Minister to the provincial shared services board of directors.

As I look back on my time with Interior Health, what really stands out for me is the people I have met along the way. My visits to rural sites and remote First Nations communities were always engaging and I found it an honour to be welcomed to these communities. The employees, physicians and volunteers throughout Interior Health are truly first-rate and I will always be proud of the time I served on the Board, and everything we have accomplished together.

Wishing you all the best in 2017,

Erwin Malzer

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