As 2018 arrives, 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 and 16 withdrawal management beds (including four in Williams Lake with our partners Axis Family Resources Ltd.). We have also implemented mobile supervised consumption services in Kamloops and Kelowna this year. Despite these efforts a record number of people were lost this year to 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 $417 million Patient Care Tower at Royal Inland Hospital continues to move forward – this year the project team shortlisted three teams for the project and issued the Request for Proposals. Construction on the patient care tower is expected to begin in fall 2018, with the tower opening for patients in 2022.
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 relationships with Indigenous communities also continue 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.
The next year promises more good news as construction wraps up on the 243 residential care beds announced last year. That will include a 48-bed expansion at The Hamlets at Westsyde in Kamloops, and a new care home in Williams Lake called Cariboo Place, which will have 70 publicly funded beds.
Since joining Interior Health in September, I have been getting to know the organization, its leadership and the communities we serve. I enjoyed meeting many staff, volunteers and community leaders.
I look forward to a fulfilling term serving Interior Health area residents.
Wishing you a happy New Year,
Doug Cochrane Board Chair for Interior Health