IH head says needs drive change in services

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Interior Health CEO Chris Mazurkawich

Before he became president and CEO of one of BC’s five health regions, Chris Mazurkewich says he would never have dreamed that health care might include services like operating buses.

The Interior Health head honcho was in Creston last Wednesday to meeting with health care professionals and local government officials as part of a tour covering several Kootenay communities.

Mazurkewich said that health care service delivery varies from community to community, and that an elderly population like the Creston Valley’s has different requirements.

“Where there is an elderly population there are a lot of deaths by nature,” he said. “Palliative services and end of life care become increasingly important. How we support those local needs is our priority.”

He also spoke about recent IH efforts to provide care closer to home, and to help seniors stay out of hospitals longer.

“We are trying to work more closely with GPs in communities, and to align our services with the needs they identify. We are working to treat patients in their communities as opposed to hospitals, and to allow them to recover from medical issues in their homes.”

In assessing needs in Creston, he said, IH staff try to find similarities in other communities, looking for best practices that could be transferrable. He mentioned the model in Kimberley that has arisen from the closure of the hospital there.

Seven general practice physicians work in a facility where IH nurses and other ancillary services work out of as well. Patient care becomes a team effort because communication among the various professionals is open and strong.

“We are seeing how patient care improves with the co-location of the team,” he said. “The physicians say they were surprised at how well it works.

“There is an appetite to see what other communities are doing—we are all more open to change.”

And many of those changes are driven from outside the medical community, such as when a local donor helps kickstart a program that they see a need for.

“We are starting to see more donations like that, when it used to be that the focus by donors was on hospitals and emergency facilities.”

More and more, Mazurkewich said, patients and their families are choosing the level of care, and the type of medical intervention they want as they grow older. And IH is also working with communities to make them more friendly to an aging population.

When asked about where a service like the local Therapeutic Activation Program for Seniors falls into IH planning, he said he was aware of the long local fight to keep the program alive after health care funding was cut a decade ago.

But IH employee Terri Doman, who was a presenter to Creston Town Council earlier this year, said that programs like TAPS have to evaluate their effectiveness on measurable, and not on perception of their value.

“We deliver professional care but we also provide linkages to other resources,” Mazurkewich said. “We do so balancing demands against taxation levels. The field of health care is changing, and we are happy to work with non-government agencies.”

While rural areas often face challenges in attracting and maintaining a sufficient level of health care professionals, they also have advantages, Doman said.

“With little changes and little trials, it can be easier to bring change about in small rural areas.”