by Andru McCracken

Taylor and Dawson Coles aren’t fans of the way changes are playing out at the Valemount Clinic. /ANDRU MCCRACKEN

If you have noticed changes at the Valemount Health Clinic and the McBride Hospital over the last 18 months, that’s a good thing, said Penny Anguish, the Chief Operating Officer (COO) for our part of Northern Health.

Most notably, public health is being integrated with doctors visits.

“In the past we’ve thought of public health as a service that is discrete and standalone,” Anguish said.

Formerly, those waiting for public health appointments–maternity, immunizations, addictions services–would wait in the Valemount clinic’s basement waiting room. Now, everyone waits upstairs.

Taylor Coles, the mother of a healthy 18-month-old boy named Dawson is less than pleased with the changes she has noticed.

Coles preferred using the public health waiting room. On her last visit, after her son was weighed and measured, she was asked to sit in the general waiting room upstairs.

Upstairs, Coles waited an hour with people coughing sneezing and hacking around them.

“It makes it so you don’t want to go and immunize your child,” said Coles. She supports vaccination and said parents don’t need more reasons not to immunize their children.

“We got sick right after,” she said. “Obviously we picked something up.”

Anguish said hiccups are a sign that the work is progressing.

“People that are doing the work start questioning or being concerned and it is affecting them and what their doing,” she said. “Often [it] is a sign of progress.”

She said organizing health services around the patient, not the various departments, is an idea that has been around for more than 25 years. It’s called Primary Care, and she says it promises better outcomes for patients. In principle it has widespread support from patients, doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers, but making it happen on the ground requires people and institutions to make changes and it can create friction. That’s okay, said Anguish.

For the patient it means that your health care is provided not solely by a doctor, but a team of caregivers representing the spectrum of health care work.  Separate trips to public health, the youth and mental health worker and home support should be a thing of the past.

The transition has been in the works for about 18 months.

“Because this is such complex change, it’s taken a long time to develop the process,” she said.

Keltie Carmichael, health services administrator for the Robson Valley, said there are some small changes.

“We’re just looking at doing it differently. We have had our share of little bumps on the way to figure out where we need to make changes for parents, nurses and the community.

“We may not be doing it exactly the way it was done before,” she said.

Anguish said it’s the right move.

“Everybody agrees it is the right thing to do for the people we serve,” she said.

Carmichael said if patients have concerns she welcomes their feedback.

“My door is always open,” she said. “I’m able to speak to them about what they are looking for.”