Healthy Living in the North

PETRONAS Canada donations give Peace Villa residents mobility and connectivity

Four women stand in front of the new PETRONAS Canada shuttle bus for Peace Villa.

Pictured left to right: Kelly White (Peace Villa program coordinator), Connie Rempel (Peace Villa resident), Julie Bourdon (Sr. Stakeholder Advisor PETRONAS Canada), and Betty Willson (Peace Villa resident).

Transportation in the North is tricky. We have big winters, great distances between communities, and ever-changing routes and conditions. Because of these factors, in many ways, mobility is a challenge for the average person. It’s even more challenging for many of our older population – especially those who can’t drive, have physical limitations, or have other health issues related to aging.

With this being a reality of life in the North, we’re ever grateful for organizations and companies that help alleviate the stressors of transport for our aging populations.

One such company is PETRONAS Canada, in Fort St. John.

In May 2012, PETRONAS Canada (formally Progress Energy) purchased a Ford shuttle bus and donated it to Peace Villa Residential Care. The idea was to help the residents of Peace Villa get out to events, attend recreational trips, and go for community/rural drives.

Along with a recently updated decal wrap that has riders travelling in style, PETRONAS has set aside $2,000 as a donation that can be used directly by Peace Villa. This donation helps individuals who can’t normally attend events due to financial restrictions pay for things like admission tickets.

Helping people out with a ride is one thing, but making sure everyone gets to take part is pretty special. These outings allow residents to try something new, participate in events that they enjoyed before moving to Peace Villa, and help them stay connected to the community.

The bus, which runs three to five times a week, carries up to 14 residents and two staff at a time, and can even accommodate people who need the use of a wheelchair.

Mobility is such a huge part of everyone’s life, and it’s great to see a service that helps people continue living life to its fullest! Getting older doesn’t mean you should be less mobile. Everyone deserves to get out, do the fun things they want to do, and enjoy life!

Thank you, PETRONAS Canada, for your continued support and making this idea a reality for the residents of Peace Villa and the community of Fort St. John!

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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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Building spaces where everyone can play

Playground

Healthy community projects don’t happen overnight. Quesnel’s first accessible playground – with a grand opening scheduled for September 15, 2016 – provides a blueprint for success.

Brooke and MacKenzie are twin sisters who cannot play together at Quesnel’s playgrounds. While MacKenzie scampers up and down stairs and slides, Brooke’s chase stops the moment her wheelchair gets stuck in the pea gravel. To help the girls play together, Brooke’s parents carry her around the playground.

Brooke and MacKenzie’s situation is hardly unique, and neither is the fact that Quesnel didn’t, until recently, have any accessible playgrounds. Chances are the playground closest to you has pea gravel, steps, ladders, and other features that make it difficult for kids and adults alike to enjoy. Because it’s not just Brooke and MacKenzie who can’t play together. It’s the family with the baby stroller that can’t roll through the gravel to watch their toddler go down the slide; it’s the grandparents with walkers who are left watching grandkids from afar when a ledge gets in the way; it’s the children with leg braces who can only look on as their friends race over traditionally uneven surfaces.

But this is all about to change in Quesnel and, as it turns out, the answer to the question, “how can Brooke and MacKenzie play together?” provides a valuable blueprint of how a healthy community project can take shape in your town.

Two people assembling playground equipment.

The Quesnel Accessible Playground was a project four years in the making for Sandy Meidlinger (right), who was involved in the project team that made it happen.

Fresh from the excitement of a long-awaited playground build event on May 28, 2016, I chatted with Sandy Meidlinger with the Quesnel & District Child Development Centre, who tells the story from here:

This project started in 2012 when Brooke and MacKenzie’s mom came to me and asked for help to get an accessible playground built in Quesnel. I’m a member of the Parent Child Resource Team (a group of service providers and parents) and we agreed this would be a valuable long-term project for us to take on. Having a team was crucial! Our committee included parents, health care professionals, local agencies, government and school district representatives, and others.

When we asked community members for letters of support for this project, the response was overwhelming! Why? Until now, there was no playground in Quesnel accessible to people with mobility needs. I’m talking baby strollers, walkers, leg braces, scooters, and more. In Quesnel alone, there are over 100 children who, because of complex developmental profiles, can’t participate in many play activities on typical playgrounds. These kids are cut off from a typical family activity of playing at the park. An accessible playground increases physical activity levels for everyone, promotes inclusive family enjoyment, and helps children with mobility issues develop independence.

Volunteers assembling playground

On the day of the build, 25 volunteers and professionals came together to assemble the park.

Our first step was to present to the City of Quesnel and Cariboo Regional District joint planning committee. Both groups agreed in principle to support the idea. Connecting with government early was key to getting support for things later in the process like ongoing playground inspection and maintenance. There’s a wonderful legacy component to this project, too, as the city has committed to incorporating accessible aspects into all future park updates.

With government support in place, we looked for a location. The Quesnel & District Arts & Recreation Centre had an old playground in disrepair so we asked about making this the site of the new playground. The Centre and their governing bodies were on board! This location was ideal because it’s central and on a bus route; the Centre will be using the playground daily for inclusive programs; and they offer accessible parking, doors, and washrooms.

Levelling rubber surface.

The recycled rubber surface replaced pea gravel, which is difficult to use for those with mobility needs.

The next step was to research playground developers. We settled on Habitat Systems. They took our ideas and created a design. We then asked therapists, play specialists, parents, and children about the plan; Habitat tweaked the design. The final proposal was about more than just mobility – there are sensory toys, considerations for visual impairments, and other equipment for integrated, inclusive play.

We then started the long and sometimes frustrating work of fundraising. We wrote lots of grant proposals; I presented to local agencies; we wrote letters to local businesses; and we all chatted with anyone interested in accessibility. Our generous community really stepped up! We managed to fundraise over $200,000!

We finally got to the day of the build. About 25 volunteers and professionals spent 13 hours assembling the park. The recycled rubber surface was poured the following week. The park is open for use this summer and our grand opening is scheduled for September 15!

It’s hard to believe that it took four years but MacKenzie and Brooke – and hundreds of other Quesnel residents – are now able to play together! We now have a space where everyone can play.


The Quesnel Accessible Playground is still fundraising for its last few pieces. To support this project with a tax-deductible donation, contact Sandy Meidlinger at the Quesnel & District Child Development Centre: 250-992-2481, SandyM@QuesnelCDC.com

For project photos and a list of donors, visit the Quesnel Accessible Playground on Facebook.


This article first appeared in Healthier You magazine. Find the original story and lots of other information about accessibility in the Fall 2016 issue:

 

Vince Terstappen

About Vince Terstappen

Vince Terstappen is a Project Assistant with the health promotions team at Northern Health. He has an undergraduate and graduate degree in the area of community health and is passionate about upstream population health issues. Born and raised in Calgary, Vince lived, studied, and worked in Saskatoon, Victoria, and Vancouver before moving to Vanderhoof in 2012. When not cooking or baking, he enjoys speedskating, gardening, playing soccer, attending local community events, and Skyping with his old community health classmates who are scattered across the world. Vince works with Northern Health program areas to share healthy living stories and tips through the blog and moderates all comments for the Northern Health Matters blog. (Vince no longer works with Northern Health, we wish him all the best.)

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