Simpcw assess community health needs, hire new medical staff

RMG file photo. / EVAN MATTHEWS

by EVAN MATTHEWS

Even when nothing feels wrong, a doctor’s check-up is always a good idea; In the same breath, so too is a Community Needs Assessment Survey.

The Simpcw First Nation — more specifically, the Simpcw Health Program — is re-assessing the community’s health needs and priorities, and it is still looking for more engagement.

A community needs assessment is done every five years for on-reserve community members, according to Marie Matthew, Chair of the Simpcw Health Board, though community participation is completely voluntary. Community members must be 18 years old and living in the Simpcw Community to participate in the survey.

The survey takes one hour to complete and can be done online, with the aid of Simpcw Accreditation Coordinator Heather Eustache online, or via a completed written form, she says.

The survey covers a wide range of health related questions related to wellness and the Simpcw Health Department. Once the Simpcw Health Program has compiled the survey’s results, the top five priorities will be identified and used to help develop community-based health programs.

The Simpcw Health Program says it will keep all responses anonymous and confidential, and cannot re-open or trace results back to an individual, and there is even a perk to completing it. Any community member to complete the survey gets a $25 gift card to their choice of Tim Hortons or Wal-Mart.

“We are bound to collect feed back from our community about our health services by our contribution agreements,” says Matthew.

The purpose of the survey, according to Matthew, is to help the Simpcw Health Program gather better understanding of the healthcare situation in the community, while creating and communicating an accurate picture of the community’s health and wellness priorities.

This all to support staff and community leaders in decision-making related to health services including program development and support policy reflecting the community’s needs, Matthew says.

Ultimately, the Simpcw Health team will analyze and report findings, and make results available to all band and community members, she says.

Since the First Nation Health Authority took over from Health Canada in 2013, Matthew says the switch has provided the Simpcw people with access to shared services; services such as a Family Nurse Practitioner.

Though many band members already have a family doctor, Matthew says Fitzgerald is not to replace the family doctor, but rather is available to those who do not have a family doctor to provide prescription refills, episodic challenges like colds and coughs, routine health screening, order blood work and imaging, as well as referrals to specialist physicians when needed.

The band now has access to Family Nurse Practitioner Laura Fitzgerald, who will be providing primary care health services every second Tuesday from 10 AM – 3 PM at the health unit.

Though many band members already have a family doctor, Matthew says Fitzgerald is not to replace the family doctor, but rather is available to those who do not have a family doctor to provide prescription refills, episodic challenges like colds and coughs, routine health screening, order blood work and imaging, as well as referrals to specialist physicians when needed.

Fitzgerald is based at Q’wemtsin Health Unit in Kamloops, and she says she is “very excited to meet the community and help to improve access to care,” in the Simpcw March newsletter.

Fitzgerald’s main focus will be health promotion and wellness, and she is available to provide men’s and women’s health screenings, diabetes screenings, help with smoking cessation and counseling.

The Simpcw First Nation does have its own Community Health Nurses, too, Matthew says.

Community members are encouraged to contact the health unit to make an appointment with Fitzgerald, and to contact Heather Eustache for the Community Needs Assessment Survey at 250-672-9925.

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