Health funding announced for the Cariboo

Cariboo area patients with chronic disease and those with mental illness and substance use issues will benefit from new programming

Cariboo area patients with chronic disease and those with mental illness and substance use issues will benefit from new or expanded programming announced by the B.C. Liberal government March 1.

These programs are community-based and intended to help improve patients’ quality of life and help keep people out of the hospital.

“Providing support at a community level will help us meet the increasing health-care demands in areas of mental health and chronic disease,” said Cariboo-Chilcotin MLA Donna Barnett.

The initiatives are part of an investment of up to $50 million in projects throughout British Columbia that will strengthen primary and community care across the province.

The areas targeted in 100 Mile House and Williams Lake includes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), which is a condition that obstructs air flow in a patient’s lungs.

Williams Lake will also receive investments that will also target mental health and substance use.

“The projects outlined are all great examples of integration in health care at work,” said Norman Embree, Interior Health (IH) board chair.

“These are targeted approaches to very specific populations, and we are excited to be working with local physicians and our staff in these key areas.”

100 Mile House and Williams Lake are among several communities within IH to receive funding. Communities were selected based on a number of factors, including the prevalence of related conditions and the demand for additional community-based supports.

Interior Health will direct $2.2 million to a program called BreatheWell.

In Williams Lake, IH has hired a respiratory therapist to work with COPD patients in the community, to manage symptoms and help avoid unnecessary hospital visits. There will also be a role for expanded rehabilitation efforts and education.

COPD is one of the leading causes of death in Canada and rates continue to increase. Statistics show within IH, the percentage of patients with COPD has climbed from 5.4 per cent in 2001 to 7.8 per cent in 2010.

The unpredictable and serious nature of “flare-ups,” when symptoms, such as shortness of breath, coughing, and mucous become acute, means many COPD patients must often use hospital emergency departments.

“Proactive management of this population by community-based multi-disciplinary teams, including respiratory therapists, physiotherapists, general practitioners and specialists, will result in fewer and shorter hospital admissions,” says Darlene Arsenault, program director, Primary Health Care, Chronic Disease Management, Interior Health.

“Most importantly, by working together these teams will help improve the COPD patient’s quality of life.”

In addition, some $2.7 million will be directed across nine communities to expand community mental-health services.

“The program helps those with severe mental illness access care from a general practitioner,” explained Cliff Cross, program director, Mental Health and Substance Use, Interior Health.

“A large proportion of this population doesn’t have a family doctor. At the same time, many have pressing health-care issues that can exacerbate their illness and seriously impact quality of life.”

The initiatives are being rolled out over three years in 100 Mile House and Williams Lake, as well as other select communities throughout Interior Health.