Northern Health provides update on Rupert plans

Red tape and bureaucratic slowdown will hinder Northern Health no more.

Red tape and bureaucratic slowdown will hinder Northern Health no more.

That’s the message that was delivered to city council last Monday night by Northern Health’s health service administrator Michael Melia and public health manager Jane Boutette.

“For anybody who’s accessed health care and needed to go to a number of different departments in Northern Health, you probably have realized that it’s an often frustrating process trying to find the right place to go [and having] to tell your story numerous times,” said Melia.

“What we’re moving towards will have integrated inter-professional teams where you’ll have staff from home community care, home care nursing, public health and mental health and addictions – all part of the same team and supported by primary care nurses. They will work really closely with family physicians to make sure that people are connected into those services very quickly. It will be one point of referral,” he went on.

Melia and Boutette talked more of the new psychiatric liaison nurse position that Northern Health will be recruiting for in Prince Rupert.

“It was one of those areas that was identified as a real gap in accessing services for our population and, with having them onsite, they will be able to provide support to the North Coast communities using Telehealth and Telepresence [for] support as far away as Haida Gwaii … We’re very close to posting the position,” said Melia.

Boutette offered a glimpse into a service that may be headed to Prince Rupert when she brought up Northern Health’s HIV testing initiative in Smithers as part of the organization’s harm reduction services.

With just a finger prick and a quick analysis of the blood, medical specialists can determine the likelihood of a patient being HIV-positive or negative.

“There’s potential opportunity to bring that program to Prince Rupert, which would be wonderful [in reaching] high-risk and hard to reach places,” she said.

Currently, Northern Health operates a ‘needle exchange program’ which helps clients who have addictions to injection drugs.

“It’s for people to access clean and safe equipment, so we offer those services along with drop-off services for people to bring back used needles and drug paraphernalia so we can keep that off the streets of Prince Rupert. We also have an opportunity to link them into counselling programs if or when they’re ready to leave that lifestyle behind,” Boutette added.

Council asked the representatives how Northern Health would be able to help with the housing needs situation the city faces . While the organization was unable to commit dollars to the cause, Coun. Barry Cunningham felt Northern Health was uniquely situated as face-to-face contacts that lower-income or homeless Prince Rupert residents have dealt with and may have expertise in the area.

“What we’ve recognized is often homelessness isn’t visible in northern communities [with the colder climate], but that doesn’t mean people aren’t vulnerable. While housing isn’t a core mandate for health, it is a key component of health,” said Melia.

“Northern Health would like to be part of the steering group for the [housing] survey.”

 

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