Healthy Living in the North

Canadian Patient Safety Week 2019: Speak out and conquer silence

Canadian Patient Safety Week takes place October 28 to November 1. This annual campaign encourages all Canadians to become involved in making patient safety a priority. The theme for Canadian Patient Safety Week (supported through the national organization Canadian Patient Safety Institute) is Conquer Silence and is raising the awareness of how silence of patients and providers in the system contributes to people dying.

“What most Canadians don’t realize, is that 28,000 of us die from preventable harm when receiving care, every single year. This makes patient safety incidents the third leading cause of death in Canada, behind cancer and heart disease. One in three Canadians has had patient harm affect themselves or a loved one, yet the public is collectively unaware that the problem exists. This is a silent epidemic. If we do nothing, 1.2 million Canadians will die from preventable patient harm in the next 30 years.” (Canadian Patient Safety Institute website.)

I recently spoke with Sally Rosevear, a patient partner with Northern Health, who has shared her story and her commitment to patient safety to encourage others to speak up and get involved.

A woman outside holding a toddler boy in a bear toque.

Sally and her grandson.

Sally’s story

My renewed interest in the delivery of healthcare began in 2014 during my husband’s hospitalization in the final few months of his life.

It was complications of long-standing coronary artery disease that brought us to an emergency room. My husband also had Alzheimer’s and we had managed successfully at home with myself as his sole caregiver until this time.

Throughout his care journey, I tried to answer the healthcare professionals’ questions, sometimes over and over again. However, when I had questions, explanations, or suggestions for them, it seemed there were few who would listen. I found this frustrating and not supportive, and I felt it negatively impacted the care my husband received.

When my husband reached the end of his life at home, under less than satisfactory conditions, I was more devastated by how things had been mishandled than by him having died.

In spite of my best efforts, things had gone terribly wrong. I didn’t want anyone else to have to endure what we’d been through. The system had failed us and it needed to be made aware. If I didn’t speak up would I be able to live with myself?

It was not easy to gather my thoughts and express them in a letter to Northern Health’s Patient Care Quality Office. However, I also felt that unless I made them aware of the situation, and changes were made, it was likely that other patients and their families would suffer similar outcomes. I didn’t want that to happen.

So began my continuing mission to speak up about the shortcomings that I had seen within healthcare. I joined Patient Voices Network (PVN) and have been given numerous opportunities to tell my story. I had tried to “speak up” during my husband’s journey, but often the response we received was “too little”, “too late” or both.  However, it wasn’t too late to speak out for others. My story supports how a focus on person- and family-centred care can improve care.

Currently, I am participating as a patient partner with Northern Health’s planning committee for the celebration of Canadian Patient Safety Week. This year’s theme is Conquer the Silence.

I find it alarming and unacceptable that one in three Canadians have been affected by preventable healthcare harm. Every 17 minutes someone dies in a hospital from an adverse event. Preventable healthcare harm is the third leading cause of death in Canada. This means that 28,000 people die each year who shouldn’t. Silence plays a major role.

So, if something looks wrong, feels wrong, or is wrong, speak out. You can effect improvements or even save a life. Check out the information on Canadian Patient Safety Week’s Conquer Silence campaign, learn about Patient Voices Network or contact Northern Health’s Patient Care Quality Office.


Thank you, Sally, for sharing your story!

Have a complaint about care? Here’s the process you should follow:

  1. Individuals with concerns or complaints should first speak with the person who provided the service, or to the manager of the area. Complaints are best addressed and resolved at the time and place they occur.
  2. If this isn’t an option or doesn’t serve you, the next step is to speak to local administration.
  3. If your complaint remains unresolved, please contact the NH Patient Care Quality Office.
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!


The journey to 100% mobile-friendly sites at Northern Health

Northern Health's Indigenous Health site displayed on a variety of devices.

Northern Health’s sites – all mobile-friendly on all the devices!

In 2016, which feels like an eternity ago, the Northern Health web team embarked on what became a three-year journey of enlightenment as we moved all the external websites over to a new and mobile-friendly platform called Drupal.

The entire project actually began several years before when it became obvious that we needed to make some big changes to our public-facing websites. They weren’t keeping up to the rapidly growing mobile world and didn’t work very well on mobile devices.

Drupal has been around since 2001, but our team had never worked with it. To familiarize ourselves with this framework and technology, we set out a pilot project: developing on Drupal 8.

After the successful launch of the pilot in early 2017, we moved ahead with the daunting task of bringing all our existing websites over to the new platform. After dedicating many hours and conquering steep learning curves, we launched the first two sites, and, in the summer of 2018. and followed soon after in early 2019.


The old websites were not accessible to visitors with disabilities, especially our aging population. A website is accessible when its content is available to everyone, regardless of any visual, auditory, cognitive or motor impairment. BC is expected to introduce legislation on accessibility in 2024. We’ve been proactive, working towards having completely accessible websites when the legislation comes in to place.

Some of the changes we’ve made to make the sites more accessible are:

  • Larger font sizes.
  • Colour combinations that work for colour-blind visitors or visitors with aging eyesight.
  • Coding in the backend that lets blind or visually impaired users listen to the page using a screen reader.
  • Making sure someone can navigate the site with just a keyboard.


All of the new websites are fully responsive, meaning whatever device you’re viewing it on, the content will flow and adapt to fit the screen. On a desktop computer the display may have three columns across the page where on a mobile phone the display will flow into one column.

We now proudly have more visitors accessing on a mobile phone or tablet than we do on a desktop computer. For example, in May of this year, 116,390 people visited 85,871 of those visits came from mobile phones and only 21,030 from desktop computers, with the remaining 9,224 visits coming from tablets.­

A table and pie chart display the number of visitors to Northern Health sites by device type (mobile - 85,871 (73.95%), desktop - 21,030 (18.11%), tablet - 9,224 (7.94%)).

The number of visitors to Northern Health sites by device type for May 2019.

While we celebrated and embraced these mobile-friendly, ascendible “new arrivals” like loving parents, we secretly knew the real work was just about to begin!

A collage of four updated Northern Health sites.

Northern Health’s updated and mobile-friendly sites have similar templates for familiar user experiences.

Improved experience

Another important reason for making these changes was to update aging site content, much of which was out-of-date, hard to navigate, and not focused on what our visitors or patients required.

We needed to create an easier way for visitors to find the information they require. We dedicated a lot of time to simplify the menus and make information easy and intuitive to find. All of our facilities are now available from the “Locations” tab on the main navigation menu.

The NH Communications team also worked with the Patient Voices Network in the areas of Mental Health and Substance Use, Home and Community Care, Chronic Diseases, and Primary and Community Care to find out what information patients want to see on our website and how they can find it easily. We have endeavoured to make sure this information has been presented in the best way possible.

We’re also working to ensure the content on our sites has been written in plain language, which makes it easy to read and understand.

If you have any questions or feedback about the new sites, please don’t hesitate to contact me or Rosemary Dolman, Regional Manager, Web Services.

Darren Smit

About Darren Smit

Darren is the NH Web Specialist on the Communications team. He is a creative at heart, with passion for photography, graphic design, typography, and more. During the past 17 years, he has traveled to over 80 countries worldwide, and he lives in Prince George with his wife and son.