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Interior Health year in review: Message from Board Chair Erwin Malzer

Board Chair Erwin Malzer

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.
 
There were several other important announcements this year.
 
In September, the New Boundary Health Centre opened in Grand Forks. The health centre brings public health and mental health and substance use services into a single location and provides residents the convenience of having primary care physician and Interior Health services in a centralized location in downtown Grand Forks.
 
In Nakusp, planning is now underway for future renovations at the Arrow Lakes Hospital.  Goals of this department redesign are to improve patient privacy and flow, while also increasing the overall efficiency and effectiveness of the emergency department.
 
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.
 
The use of technology across Interior Health continues to expand to better serve patients, particularly those in rural and remote communities. For example, for hospitals in Kootenay Boundary without an ICU, specialists are using telehealth technology to bring ICU expertise to emergency departments for consultations for critically ill or injured patients to occur quickly and efficiently. These new video conferencing connections are being established between emergency departments in Nelson, Nakusp and New Denver with the ICU at Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital in Trail.
 
Since an initial announcement 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.
 
While the last year had several milestones that are to be celebrated, it also had its share of heart-break, 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