The following letter to the editor was published in The Golden Star on August 12, 2015.
Dear Golden Community,
The Age Friendly Community Plan (AFCP) process in 2014 sparked serious discussions on Golden's AFCP #1 priority, “Community Support and Health Services.” Several members of the community have expressed publicly and online their frustrations with trying to access care in a timely fashion.
The May 20th, 2015 Age Friendly Community Committee (AFCC) Golden meeting resulted in the creation of the “Access to Care” committee, consisting of residents, physicians and politicians who have studied the problem, outlined broad principles and identified potential solutions.
The problems stem from a number of factors including:
· No agreed upon protocols for transfer of patients with a given condition. Each case has to be negotiated with Patient Transfer Network and receiving centers, therefore causing delays.
· Alberta is refusing to accept local patients, even visiting Alberta residents.
· Patients must frequently travel to Kelowna, Kamloops and even Vancouver.
· There is pressure to transfer patients out of acute care and into their community where locally, services are limited.
The Age Friendly Community Committee feels elderly residents benefit from staying in their community as long as possible. To do so, all of their needs, including access to medical care must be as readily accessible as possible. When responding to the Ministry’s Health Policy Paper on Rural Health Services, Doctors of BC stated they “would advise against a standardized approach to implementation of these types of practices in favour of a flexible, incentivized approach.“ The Committee feels this is particularly relevant to Golden.
In fact, the “Access to Care” committee believes that Golden is an anomaly in BC healthcare for the following reasons:
• Our Regional referral centre, Cranbrook, has limited capacity
• The closest full service care centre, Calgary is in another Province.
• Many Golden residents work or have family in Alberta.
• Golden is frequently isolated due to weather or road closures. During those times, transfers out are frequently not possible.
Some of the solutions considered by the committee include:
• Increased services at the local level within the constraints of what is deliverable. For example, consistent availability of ultrasound and laboratory services.
• Improved local support programs for patients that are required to travel. There are financial needs but one must also consider assistance in navigating access to the many available programs.
• Establish agreed upon referral protocols to the nearest suitable facility to expedite transfers and referrals. This should include access to services in Calgary. Continued health promotion through municipal government activities, education and service clubs.
• Determine what services we should be providing locally based on the needs of the population and what is safe to provide.
These issues affect every citizen of Golden. Achieving solutions will require the efforts of the entire community and all health care providers. We hope and trust that Golden’s residents and organizations will collectively and collaboratively lend their voice to push for improvements to health care access for older adults.
AFCC Golden - Access to Care Committee
Ryan Watmough, Coordinator
Golden Community Resources Society strives to capture and share knowledge that will help non profits serve their communities more efficiently.