Rural health hub can work in Haliburton
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | November 9, 2017|
Laura Green believes Haliburton is a great fit for the province’s rural health hub pilot project.
“We already have strong health programs and partnerships in the area … but the problem we have to solve now is if there are people who can’t access us, how do we access them?” said Green, Haliburton Highlands Health Services’ (HHHS) new chief nursing executive.
Green, who was hired this past summer, is still a clinically active registered nurse in Espanola, Ont., where one of five rural health hub pilots is located. The province announced in the summer of 2016 that Ontario will provide $2.5 million in funding over three years for the five hubs.
Espanola has a population of nearly 5,000 people with comparable existing resources to Haliburton, said Green. The pilot’s objective to streamline existing health services within a rural environment is slowly being realized in Espanola.
“They’re a little further ahead than [Haliburton],” said Green.
But Haliburton is on the right track, she added. The hospital is currently collecting information from the public through a survey, asking people to identify gaps in health services.
Carolyn Plummer, hospital CEO, said some of those gaps are well-known.
“Right now, it can be a bit choppy and disjointed. People don’t always know where to go for which service,” she told The Highlander.
As a result, some of the county’s most vulnerable patients who are older and live far away from a hospital are missing appointments, or not making appointments altogether.
In addition, some people who don’t know where to go for help simply go to the emergency room.
During the hospital’s 2016-17 fiscal year, more than 20,000 combined patients visited ER rooms in Haliburton and Minden. But it’s not just about expanding services, said Green, but enhancing them.
For example, the Ontario Telemedicine Network at the Minden hospital - another pilot project that allows staff to provide clinical health care to patients from a distance, introduced last summer - has delivered positive results, especially to patients with mental health issues, but has struggled to provide care to patients outside of hospital hours, said Plummer.
“The challenge is getting the resources to operate outside of patient hours,” she said. “We don’t necessarily have people here in the building after hours that have the education to run the equipment.”
That’s something Green might be able to help with.
“It’s a matter of training and moving everybody forward, but also making sure your patients are at the forefront of whatever you are doing,” she said.
Plummer said HHHS is exploring the possibility of a youth wellness hub in the community, which would work closely with local organizations.
“We are working in partnership with Point in Time, and looking to collaborate with other community partners to determine what might be possible here. We are also exploring it with our Rural Health Hub Steering Committee.”
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.