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 in in B.C. this year. We have successfully awarded contracts for the previously announced 73 substance use treatment beds; these include 57 support recovery beds (including eight withdrawal beds in Castlegar through a partnership with Axis Family Resources) and 16 withdrawal management beds. We have also implemented mobile supervised consumption services in Kamloops and Kelowna this year.
The use of telehealth expanded this year to enhance service for Mental Health and Substance Use clients throughout the Kootenays.
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.
The Kootenay Boundary area is leading the charge in primary care transformation with our partners the Kootenay Boundary Division of Family Practice. Five new primary care staff were hired this year through the Grand Forks/West Boundary Primary and Community Care Transformation Initiative, which ensures residents receive the right care, in the right place, from the right care provider, when it is needed.
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 relationship with Indigenous communities also continues 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.
Since joining Interior Health in September, I have been getting to know the organization, its leadership and the communities we serve. I look forward to a fulfilling term serving Interior Health area residents.
Wishing you a happy New Year,