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

As I mark my first anniversary as Board Chair of Interior Health, I’m looking back on the highlights and challenges of 2015. From wildfires that blazed through much of our region, to major investments in surgical care, and a change in leadership within our organization, it has been quite a year.
We saw the departure of Dr. Robert Halpenny as President and CEO and in October, we announced his successor, Chris Mazurkewich. Prior to working with Alberta Health Services, Chris was Chief Operating Officer, Strategic and Corporate Services at Interior Health. It is great to have him back.

In September, we welcomed the first patients to the new Interior Heart and Surgical Centre. Located in Kelowna, this state-of-the-art facility now delivers the highest level of surgical care ever seen in the Interior. We are thrilled to offer this calibre of health care to residents from every corner of our region.

Capital projects in the area continue to move forward. The Creston Emergency Department upgrade project went to tender in November, while in Cranbrook the ICU/electrical upgrade project is in final phase of construction.

24/7 CT coverage and the combined efforts of Kootenay Lake Hospital physicians and staff now mean thrombolytic (clot buster) stroke care is available locally for Nelson and area patients, creating opportunities for better patient outcomes.

The addition of a Snoezelen room at Columbia View Lodge in Trail is helping residents with cognitive issues, while an on-line tour of Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital’s maternity ward is a great resource for those who are expecting.

In Golden, patients with broken bones needing ambulance transport ride a little easier after physicians, nurses and BC Ambulance paramedics implemented a new pain management protocol. This was a great example of working together to provide the best care possible to our patients.

I’d also like to recognize everyone who was involved this summer when sprinklers flooded Hardy View Lodge in Grand Forks. With everyone’s help the impact to residents was kept to a minimum.
A significant milestone was reached this year when our Board approved the Letter of Understanding with the Ulkatcho First Nation, the last of eight health agreements that create a strong partnership to improve health outcomes for Aboriginal people. We also renewed an LOU with the Ktunaxa nation this year.

Our work to expand access to HIV testing and treatment has led to significant increases in screening for the disease. Since 2013, HIV testing in the region has increased by 50 per cent. Screening is a critical step in controlling and eventually ending the AIDS epidemic.

Throughout the year I have enjoyed touring the region to meet with staff, physicians, volunteers, and our elected officials. We managed to cover a lot of territory including Cranbrook, Kaslo, Nelson, Salmo and Trail. These visits are a priority for myself and the CEO, and over the coming year we will visit other communities in the region.

There is much to celebrate, but we also have much to accomplish. In an effort to decrease demand on hospital and residential services, we are shifting our focus to integrated primary and community care, embracing new approaches that not only benefit our patients but also the health-care system.

At Interior Health, every person matters and I am extremely proud of the staff, physicians and volunteers who demonstrate this philosophy every day in their dedication to quality health care. Our current board is exceptionally engaged and, for the first time, has a majority of women serving and chairing half of the board committees. I am confident that the next year will bring plenty of change for the better.