Healthy Living in the North

Telehealth: bridging the gap between physicians and patients

Dr. Abdulla smile in front of medical equipment.

Dr. Abdulla, one call away from a patient appointment. (photo credit: Prince George Citizen)

Telehealth is seeing growing usage in Northern Health, and patients and physicians are seeing the benefits.

“I had a lady sitting on her patio drinking coffee in Quesnel, and I did a followup with her [from Prince George],” said Dr. Abdulla. “That’s the ideal situation. She doesn’t have to drive an hour and 20 minutes each way for a seven-minute appointment.”

Dr. Abdulla is a urologist based out of UHNBC in Prince George who deals with patients from across the North. He knows the difficulty travel can pose for his patients and telehealth has helped them skip the trip, and still receive the quality of care they need.

Physicians can find out more about offering telehealth to your patients or clients at northernhealth.ca/services/programs/telehealth.

Mark Hendricks

About Mark Hendricks

Mark is the Communications Advisor, Medical Affairs at Northern Health. He was raised in Prince George, and has earned degrees from UNBC (International Business) and Thompson Rivers University (Journalism). As a fan of Fall and Winter, the North suits him and he’s happy to be home in Prince George. When he's not working, Mark enjoys spending time with his wife, reading, playing games of all sorts, hiking, and a good cup (or five) of coffee.

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Celebrate World Patient Safety Day – September 17, 2019

A graphic says, "Speak up for patient safety! No one should be harmed in health care."

On September 17, speak up for patient safety!

This year, the World Health Organization declared September 17, 2019 the first annual World Patient Safety Day. They’re encouraging people to speak up for patient safety.

At Northern Health, we’ve been working hard to remove the potential harms associated with health care. In 2018, we had an external review by Accreditation Canada surveyors, who assessed us against standards of excellence. They identified what is being done well and what needs to be improved, and we’re proud to have met 100% of the infection control and medical device cleaning, disinfection, and sterilization standards.

On World Patient Safety Day, help us break the silence and speak up for patient safety.

There are three ways to get involved:

  1. Check out the documentary – Attend the screening of the patient safety documentary To Err is Human on September 17. It starts at 12 pm PST. Register through the Canadian Patient Safety Institute.
  1. Take part on social media – Use Twitter and Facebook to share content and follow the hashtags #Patientsafety and #WorldPatientSafetyDay, and the slogan “Speak up for Patient Safety.” This is your chance to add your voice to the conversation and see what everyone else is saying.
  1. Talk about it – Talk about World Patient Safety Day (September 17) with your friends and family. Encourage others to speak up for safety while receiving care, and share stories that will help make care safer.

Learn more about the World Patient Safety Day on the World Health Organization’s website.

Marlene Apolczer

About Marlene Apolczer

Marlene is the Quality Improvement Lead for the Northern Interior and is based in Prince George. Marlene is a longtime health care employee and worked in a number of program areas before bringing all of her knowledge and experience to her current role. When she is not working, you can usually find Marlene in a school gymnasium or hockey arena cheering on her teenage sons!

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Welcome to the Kalum Café at Terraceview Lodge

A group of seven female staff stand and smile into the camera.

Some of the dedicated staff and volunteers that contributed to bringing the Kalum Cafe to life. (Left to right: Marivel Operana, Activity Worker; Hazel Lechasseur, Activity Worker; Amber Brown, Rehabilitation Assistant; Linda Lacasse, Activity Worker; Bonnie Casault, Recreation Coordinator; Gail Gyger, volunteer; Cheryl Block, Occupational Therapist)

Terraceview Lodge in Terrace is embracing changes to make it an environment that feels like home for residents. The facility recently transformed its lobby space on the second floor into a place for residents, families, visitors, and staff to gather. The result is the Kalum Café, an inviting space to socialize and enjoy a cup of coffee.

It took a lot of planning and teamwork between all of the Terraceview Lodge departments to work out the different aspects of the café.

“We were lucky to have a lot of support and people who wanted to contribute and see the café come to life,” says Bonnie Casault, Recreation Coordinator at Terraceview Lodge.

The space that would soon become Cafe Kalum, with four large recliners and a side table.

A view of the space before being transformed into Kalum Cafe.

“Part of the planning involved finding ways to engage residents, families, visitors, and staff in the creation of the café. We offered an opportunity for people to vote on the café’s name. We narrowed it down to two choices and residents, families, visitors, and staff voted on their favourite name. After the votes were counted, Kalum Café was the winner.”

“We’re so excited about this space becoming a new gathering spot that everyone can enjoy,” says Cheryl Block, Occupational Therapist at Terraceview Lodge. “It has vaulted ceilings with large windows that face west with views of the mountains. It’s the perfect place to experience seasonal changes including flowers blooming, trees changing colours, and snow falling.”

Several round tables with flowers on them, and chairs around them, are shown. The back wall has several coffee-themed signs hanging.

The space after being transformed into Kalum Cafe.

“The Kalum Café is furnished with chairs and tables that serve multiple functions,” continues Cheryl. “We have comfortablechairs with foot stools and tables with adjustable heights so they’re accessible for everyone. We used bright colours and included art on the walls to make the space even more inviting. Residents created a decorative wreath using coffee filters that they painted. It was a way we could have them contribute to the café’s design.”

Cheryl also notes that the Kalum Café serves more than a social purpose – it has clinical benefits as well.

“During occupational therapy, we work on resident’s mobility. This can be either walking or using a wheel chair. The café gives us a purposeful destination to go to rather than just going up and down the halls. We can also use it as a place for our different programming groups to meet.”

Kalum Café had their grand opening celebration on August 28, 2019. Residents, families, staff, community groups, and local government officials all attended the celebration.

Tamara Reichert

About Tamara Reichert

Tamara is the communications advisor for the innovation and development commons at Northern Health where she works on a number of projects with the research, quality improvement, clinical simulation, and education teams. Born and raised in Prince George, Tamara grew up on a ranch where she rode horses, played with farm animals, built forts, and raided the family garden. She enjoys spending time travelling, hiking, cooking, reading, and cheering for her favourite sports teams.

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Coming soon… the new Atlin Health Centre!

A computer rendering of the future Atlin Health Centre is shown. The single-story building has a grey bottom-third, a charcoal top, and black roof with white and wood trim and accents.

A rendering of the future Atlin Health Centre.

Site preparation is underway at the corner of Atlin Road and Discovery Avenue, across from the BC Hydro plant, for the location of the new Atlin Health Centre. Local contractor Pine Tree Services has been excavating and getting the grounds ready for this long-awaited replacement facility!

“We’re really happy to see action at the site!” says Jonathan Cooper, Health Services Administrator. “Planning for the new health centre in Atlin has been underway for some time now, and good work has been conducted by dedicated local residents, including the Community Advisory Group and the Taku River Tlingit First Nation, as well as staff and leadership with Northern Health and the First Nations Health Authority. We’re really proud to be in the finals stages now, ensuring the health centre will meet the needs of the community.”

A man drives a mini-escalator in a field while another man watches.

Site preparation at the new location for the Atlin Health Clinic

The contract for the actual construction of the facility has been awarded to ATCO Sustainable Communities Inc. Modular Construction. At 2,540 square feet, the new facility is more than twice as big as the existing centre. The new expanded space will improve on the continued provision of all services the community currently receives, and will better serve the needs of patients, staff, and physicians.

The modular units that will make up the building itself will be in transit towards Atlin in September. Look forward to more updates then. You can also always look for current news and updates on the Atlin Health Centre and all Northern Health capital projects on the NH website.

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is the Communications Lead for Capital Projects at Northern Health. She’s happy in all four seasons in Northern BC and loves getting out into the wild with her family. Andrea is a Southern transplant who came to the North “for just one year” to attend UNBC… more than twenty years ago. Suffice it to say the academic and professional opportunities, wild spaces, and open-hearted people are what make the North home for Andrea. Sunny winter skies and fresh powder for days don’t hurt either.

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Fort St. John doctor brings new frostbite treatment to Northern BC

Dr. Wilkie and a woman stand beside each other outdoors. Dr. Wilkie holds a toddler.

Thanks to Dr. Wilkie (left), there should be less amputations due to frostbite this winter.

Few things can put an end to winter activities as fast as frostbite, but thanks to one Fort St. John doctor, Northern Health may soon have a better way of treating it.

Dr. Jamie Wilkie, a recent graduate of the UBC Family Medicine residency program, saw a need during his residency in Fort St. John to improve how we are dealing with frostbite.

“I previously lived and worked in Hay River [in the Northwest Territories], have dogsledded in the Yukon, and guided canoe trips in all three territories,” says Dr. Wilkie. “I have personally and professionally seen the impacts of frostbite and related exposure injuries.”

Frostbite treatment became the focus of Dr. Wilkie’s resident scholar project. He collaborated with Jessica Brecknock, Regional Medication Use Management Pharmacist, and Kendra Clary, Med Systems Pharmacy Technician, to create a prepackaged treatment plan (order set) for use of the drug iloprost in severe frostbite cases.

“The literature for the use of iloprost in severe frostbite shows a significant decrease in the need for amputations,” says Dr. Wilkie. “The goal of this project is to improve access to the best evidence-based treatments for severe frostbite in Northern BC.”

Northern Health approved this protocol, and it will be available for use this winter. Dr. Wilkie believes this is the first frostbite order set for iloprost in BC.

Dr. Wilkie moved to Fort St. John in June 2017 and is enjoying all the outdoor opportunities the area has to offer. He and his wife have been hiking around places such as Tumbler Ridge, Hudson Hope, and in Stone Mountain Provincial Park to name a few. They have canoed on the Peace River, and done lots of fishing.

“I knew that I loved the North and the access to fishing, hunting, hiking, and sledding,” says Dr. Wilkie. “I wanted to be in a small town and I wanted to practice full-scope family medicine. I looked at residencies all over the US and Canada, and only Fort St. John checked all those boxes.

“I also really like the people. They are hard working, generous, and generally very appreciative of having physicians in town.”

Mark Hendricks

About Mark Hendricks

Mark is the Communications Advisor, Medical Affairs at Northern Health. He was raised in Prince George, and has earned degrees from UNBC (International Business) and Thompson Rivers University (Journalism). As a fan of Fall and Winter, the North suits him and he’s happy to be home in Prince George. When he's not working, Mark enjoys spending time with his wife, reading, playing games of all sorts, hiking, and a good cup (or five) of coffee.

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Telehealth shrinks the distance between you and your health care provider

Gord looking at a laptop with his health care specialist on the screen.

With telehealth, a health care appointment is a few key strokes away – like this appointment between Gord in Prince George and his speech language pathologist in Vancouver.

Have you ever driven to Vancouver for a doctor’s appointment that only took 10 minutes?

Apart from the time spent on the road, you probably had to miss work or other activities, and arrange care for loved ones — all while dealing with the stress and cost of travelling.

But things are changing.

It’s now possible for Northerners to visit distant health care providers from their local doctor’s office or health care centre — or even from their own homes.

Telehealth, a service that lets patients connect with health care providers over live video, is available in many Northern BC communities.

Gord Simmons, a client from Prince George, likes the telehealth option. His speech-language pathologist, Lisa, is in Vancouver, but he can now do appointments with her from his own living room.

“It’s very much a positive experience to do it from home,” he says. “It’s really convenient.”

His wife, Karen, also likes the program. “It’s a more relaxed environment just being at home,” she says. “It’s helpful for me to listen in, too, because I know what to do in ‘homework’ with him.”

Anne Scott

About Anne Scott

Anne is a communications officer at Northern Health; she lives in Prince George with her husband Andrew Watkinson. Her current health goals are to do a pull-up and more than one consecutive “real” push-up. She also dreams of becoming a master’s level competitive sprinter and finding a publisher for her children’s book on colourblindness. Anne enjoys cycling, cross-country skiing, reading, writing, sugar-free chocolate, and napping -- sometimes all on the same day!

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CT scanner officially unveiled in Smithers

The new CT scanner in pictured.

The new Smithers CT scanner, located in the Bulkley Valley District Hospital.

On Friday, July 12, 2019, the Bulkley Valley District Hospital (BVDH) and the Bulkley Valley Healthcare Foundation celebrated the opening of the new computerized tomography (CT) scanner at the hospital. More than 50 people from the community, Northern Health, and the Town of Smithers were on hand to mark the event.

There were balloons and a lovely cake, as well as many kind words of reflection and praise for the people who contributed to the purchase of the CT scanner. The purchase was made possible, in large part, through the philanthropy of a Bulkley Valley local, Fritz Pfeiffer, who donated $1.6 million to help fund the project. The CT scanner will carry out more than 3,500 scans a year.

An outdoor group photo. One person hold a plaque.

A group photo from the CT scanner “opening” event (L to R: Mayor Taylor Bacharach, Mabel (Timberwolf) Forsyth (Witsuwit’en Hereditary chief); Cormac Hikisch, Health Services Administrator, Smithers; Jeanette Malkow, family friend to the late Fritz Pfeiffer, member of the Smithers Health Committee; Joyce Groves, caregiver to the late Fritz Pfeiffer; Irene Howard, family friend of the late Fritz Pfeiffer; Laurel Menzel, Executive Director, Bulkley Valley Health Care and Hospital Foundation; Andrea Bradford, Chief Technologist, Diagnostic Imaging).

Andrea Palmer

About Andrea Palmer

Andrea Palmer is the Communications Lead for Capital Projects at Northern Health. She’s happy in all four seasons in Northern BC and loves getting out into the wild with her family. Andrea is a Southern transplant who came to the North “for just one year” to attend UNBC… more than twenty years ago. Suffice it to say the academic and professional opportunities, wild spaces, and open-hearted people are what make the North home for Andrea. Sunny winter skies and fresh powder for days don’t hurt either.

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Overnight Home Support supporting seniors in Burns Lake

An elderly man and a young woman sit on a couch.

Harvey Funk, assisted living client in Burns Lake, and Kristen Remanda, community health worker.

Burns Lake has extended its home support hours to include overnight coverage. Now, town residents who use the Lifeline program have access to scheduled or unscheduled home support services through the night.

The overnight home support program started on November 1, 2018. As the pilot community for the extended hours, Burns Lake is currently the only BC community receiving the additional coverage. There are nine people signed up at the assisted living facility, Tweedsmuir House, as well as a couple community members who’ve scheduled check-ins linked to their Lifeline service.

How does the Lifeline program work?

With Lifeline, if a client needs help for any reason, they can press a small, waterproof personal help button (worn on a neck cord or wristband). Pressing the button calls a cell phone that’s managed by a home support worker, who can then respond and tend to the client’s needs.

In Burns Lake, a person can sign up with Lifeline, then opt into the extended overnight home support.

Clients must sign up for Lifeline, and when doing so, must choose where to direct the calls. In the past, if a patient had no family close by, they might list an ambulance service as the main contact. Now that there’s overnight home support, the first call can be to the overnight home support worker, avoiding unnecessary trips to the emergency room.

Helping seniors feel safe in their homes

Lifeline helps seniors feel secure and safe in their home; they know help is just a button push away. For example, when a patient falls, they press their Lifeline to call a home support worker. The home support worker can go see the patient in their home to determine if they need an ambulance or if family members should be contacted. If the call is beyond what the home support worker can do, they will support the senior until the ambulance or family member arrives.

Home support workers do scheduled overnight safety checks at Tweedsmuir House – even assisting clients who wake up very early in the morning. For instance, one client gets up extremely early (while the overnight home support worker is still on shift). Overnight home support workers are able to help this client with their personal morning routine before the day shift starts. This frees up time for the daytime home support workers to see more clients.

Home support workers also help people who need assistance getting to the bathroom at night. This lets people stay in their home longer, which is usually where they want to be.

The home support service is also available for people who are still living in their own homes within the village limits of Burns Lake.

Helping people return home from the hospital

In the past, having no overnight support at home has prevented people from leaving the hospital. They’re often well enough to go home, but still need overnight support for certain things and don’t have family who can assist. Overnight support service lets people return home with peace of mind, knowing they’ll be checked on when needed.

If you or a family member in Burns Lake is interested in Lifeline’s overnight home support services, please call 1-800-387-1215. You must live in the town of Burns Lake as the current support only covers people living within town limits. The hope is that the service will be expanded later. At this time, staff safety, and sustainability are the first priority.

If you do not live in Burns Lake and would like more information about Lifeline, please visit Northern Health’s Lifeline Emergency Response Program page.

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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Vanderhoof nurses drawing blood at patients’ homes

Jade stands at a counter.

Jade Ginter is one of the primary care nurses in Vanderhoof who does blood draws for patients at their home.

The Vanderhoof primary health care team has started a new blood-drawing program for people with severe mobility issues who can’t leave their home (for example, cancer patients or palliative patients). It can be challenging for these patients to go in person because the lab in Vanderhoof is only open from 8:30 am to 12 pm.

In the program, the team’s primary care nurse receives a request from the patient’s doctor to do a blood draw in the patient’s home. This lets the patient stay home instead of travelling to the hospital to get blood work done. While the nurse visits the patient in their home, they also assess the patient to determine if they need any other care and connect them with other members of the primary health care team as needed. The team has been providing this service for about three months.

Currently, the team has a patient that receives the service every two weeks. The patient is very ill and struggles to travel. The nurse does the blood draw, the blood work is done, and then the patient goes in for additional treatment. This service saves the patient a trip to the lab.

In the future, this program may assist home-bound people with severe multiple sclerosis or diabetes who need testing done every three months.

The team in Vanderhoof is excited to be able to offer this service to patients and to help them receive the best care possible!

Bailee Denicola

About Bailee Denicola

Bailee is a communications advisor in the Primary Care Department and was born and raised in Prince George. She graduated from UNBC with an anthropology degree and loves exploring cultures and learning about people. When not at work, Bailee can be found hanging out with her dogs, building her house with her husband, or travelling the world.

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The St. John Hospital acute care garden: improving quality of life for people waiting for long-term care

The acute care garden gives seniors waiting for long-term opportunities for engagement, socialization, and mobility.

This spring, the residents and staff at St. John Hospital (Vanderhoof) came together to start a garden for acute care patients who are on long-term care waitlists. Acute patients who are waiting for a long-term care spot can have limited access to activities and recreation. This project gives them opportunities for engagement, socialization, and mobility on the acute floor.

Many of the residents grew up in or around Vanderhoof, and were avid farmers and gardeners throughout their lives. Now, they can tend, water, weed, and enjoy this garden. Doing so reconnects them to their past, sparking old memories, and contributes to their sense of purpose.

This project was started by the Rehabilitation Department at the St. John Hospital, which includes occupational therapist Valerie Padgin, rehabilitation assistant Roxanne, and myself (also an occupational therapist). It’s part of a DementiAbility initiative.

Thanks to the generous donations and support from several family members, the acute care garden is now thriving, growing tomatoes and lettuce! This project wouldn’t be possible without:

  • Maya Sullivan from the Vanderhoof Community Garden for loaning the hospital a wheelchair accessible planter, which got the project started.
  • The Men’s Shed for building two additional planters.
  • The Co-op and Home Hardware in Vanderhoof for donating soil, potting mix, gloves, hand tools, and a watering can.
  • Eileen at Maxine’s Greenhouse for donating dozens of beautiful plants that are flourishing in the garden.
  • Allan Pagdin and Joanne Petrie, who put in several hours of time and labour to make the project a success.

We hope the garden continues to grow and improve the lives of our residents and acute care patients!

Laura Giroux

About Laura Giroux

Laura is an Occupational Therapist at the St. John Hospital in Vanderhoof. Originally from Vancouver Island, Laura has been in the North for nearly four years, and enjoys all of the recreation and outdoor activities that it has to offer. She recently joined the Rehabilitation Department at St. John Hospital and is excited to work on such a creative and compassionate team.

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