UBC’s Centre for Rural Health Research has released a summary of its ongoing rural health survey. Photo: Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

Health care access, cost of travel top concerns for B.C. rural residents

Interim report highlights concerns of rural folks when it comes to health services

Researchers looking into health care in rural areas are hearing that barriers to transportation and travel are major concerns.

That’s one of the common themes found by the Rural Evidence Review, a study being conducted by the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Rural Health Research.

“Transport and travel, the dangers and issues faced when people have to travel,” summarizes Christine Carthew, one of the lead researchers. “That can include a lack of transportation options, but also the financial and social costs if you can’t travel with your family. We saw that concern across every care type.”

The centre has been soliciting responses from the public as part of a multi-year project into rural health care, gathering citizen opinion on that care, and researching those opinions.

So far, more than 1,600 people have responded from over 210 communities, says Carthew.

SEE: West Kootenay Opinion sought on health care issues

Researchers want to know the priorities rural citizens have for health care, and ideas on how those issues can be addressed.

“Emergency care, primary care, maternity care, elderly care, litearally every type of care under the sun came up as a priority,” says Carthew. “Underscoring each of those priorities were discussions of the challenges or barriers faced when you have to travel for care… financial, social, your physical safety. So that was interesting, the barriers to access really underpinned each of those care types.”

Carthew’s group will take the information and do literature reviews on selected topics to see how such issues have been addressed elsewhere.

Out of that evidence comes policy recommendations for government and health administrations.

Clear concerns

Some clear messages came out of the answers — mostly having to do with the cost and availability of transportation for health care, and the cost of staying away from home to receive health care.

Not surprisingly, researchers were told that “mountainous terrain and dangerous weather make travelling to other communities for care very difficult.”

Rural citizens face physical and financial barriers when travelling for health care, researchers were told.

“Expectant mothers from some communities need to pay for lodging outside their community for up to four weeks prior to their delivery,” is one example given, “and have to travel for hours to a neighbouring commuinty with maternity services should they go into labour early.”

Lack of health care locally can mean seniors have to leave their communities, as do sick persons who could benefit from support from friends and family. People can experience long wait times for specialist or diagnostic services.

There’s also a shortage — and not enough recognition of — mental health and substance abuse issues in rural areas, respondents said.

Conversely, some larger communities feel services to their own citizens are strained trying to provide health care to people in the larger catchment area.

The lack of local access to care means missed or delayed services as a result of the difficulties and costs surrounding travel; a reduction in the integrity of communities; and people being treated without the benefit of their local community and family support networks.

Solutions suggested

Not surprisingly, the survey found a strong desire for better services in rural areas. Among the suggestions included expanding of the care types being offered in smaller locations, better and more equipment, expanded hours of operation for existing health care facilities, and more walk-in clinics or non-emergent care centres to reduce pressure on emergency wards.

More should also be done to expand the number of healthcare workers in rural communities by offering greater incentives for doctors and nurses to move there.

If those things can’t be done, then access should be improved to healthcare in the larger centres, respondents told researchers. Mobile health vans or visiting specialists could reduce the need for people to travel for their care; telehealth or remote-care could be enhanced; providing funding for patients and their family to travel for care; and even allow people who live near Alberta to cross the border for care.

More study

The researchers will now take the responses, and research the major themes to see how such issues have been dealt with in other jurisdictions.

Further research into the costs associated with accessing healthcare for rural residents is already the focus of another study being done by a different branch of the Centre for Rural Health Research.

They’re looking to hear citizen’s experience with the cost of travel for receiving health care.

SEE: Out-of-pocket Costs for Rural Residents Accessing Health Care

Meanwhile, the Rural Evidence Review is also continuing to solicit citizen comments on its main survey. The effort will continue until 2021, and rural residents are still welcome to provide feedback.

PARTICIPATE: Rural Evidence Review

“We’re so grateful so many people have participated,” says Carthew. “We didn’t anticipate the response we received.”

Carthew says they’ll continue to share their findings as they are collected and processed.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

John Roney has been working on Beneath the Emerald Sea for about a year now and expects it to be released in fall of 2021. (Provided by John Roney)
Victoria man films underwater documentary about sea life around Vancouver Island

John Roney expects Under the Emerald Sea to be released in 2021

Cole Byers and Jasmine Grant are taking a leap of faith and opening The Rack Westcoast Bistro in Langford, despite the COVID-19 pandemic. (Jane Skrypnek/News Staff)
Langford residents making “all-in move” opening restaurant amid COVID-19 pandemic

Although The Rack Westcoast Bistro isn’t officially open yet, it’s serving anyone who wanders in

Victoria police are looking for information after a man was seen spray painting over a section of the More Justice, More Peace mural Oct. 31. (Victoria Police Department)
More Justice, More Peace mural vandalized days after new change

A man was seen spray painting over the artists’ statement Saturday morning

A 2.5-magnitude earthquake occurred beneath San Juan Island, Wash. – 25 kilometres from Sidney – late on Oct. 30. (Screenshot via United States Geological Survey)
Minor Washington earthquake felt in Sidney, Victoria

U.S. seismologists report 2.5-magnitude quake late Friday

Oak Bay Police. (Black Press File Photo)
Oak Bay police still awesome, residents say

2020 community policing survey results released

Over the years, Janice Blackie-Goodine’s home in Summerland has featured elaborate Halloween displays and decorations each October. (File photo)
QUIZ: How much do you really know about Halloween?

Oct. 31 is a night of frights. How much do you know about Halloween customs and traditions?

President Donald Trump speaks at a campaign rally in Allentown, Pa. on Oct. 26. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
POLL: How closely are you following the U.S. presidential election?

It may feel like it’s been going on forever but the U.S.… Continue reading

The North Cowichan/Duncan RCMP are looking for information about William Mack, last seen in Duncan on Oct. 28. (File photo)
Police searching for missing man last seen near Duncan

William Mack, 72, was seen on Gibbins Road on Oct. 28

FILE - In this Jan. 23, 1987 file photo, actor Sean Connery holds a rose in his hand as he talks about his new movie “The Name of the Rose” at a news conference in London. Scottish actor Sean Connery, considered by many to have been the best James Bond, has died aged 90, according to an announcement from his family. (AP Photo/Gerald Penny, File)
Actor Sean Connery, the ‘original’ James Bond, dies at 90

Oscar-winner was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II in 2000

This house at 414 Royal Ave. became notorious for its residents’ and visitors’ penchant for attracting police. It was also the site of a gruesome torture in August 2018. It was demolished in 2019. KTW
6-year sentence for Kamloops man who helped carve ‘rat’ into flesh of fellow gang member

Ricky Dennis was one of three men involved in the August 2018 attack

Cpl. Nathan Berze, media officer for the Mission RCMP, giving an update on the investigation at 11:30 a.m., Oct. 30. Patrick Penner photo.
VIDEO: Prisoner convicted of first-degree murder still at large from Mission Institution

When 10 p.m. count was conducted, staff discovered Roderick Muchikekwanape had disappeared

Among the pumpkin carvings created this year by Rick Chong of Abbotsford is this tribute to fallen officer Cont. Allan Young.
Abbotsford pumpkin carver’s creations include fallen police officer

Rick Chong carves and displays 30 pumpkins every year

An online fundraising campaign in support of the six-year-old boy, Edgar Colby, who was hit by a car on Range Road Oct. 25 has raised more than $62,000 in a day. (Submitted)
$62K raised in 1 day for boy in coma at BC Children’s after being hit by vehicle in Yukon

The boy’s aunt says the family is “very grateful” for the support they’ve received from the community

Police service dog Herc helped RCMP locate and arrest suspects in the Ladysmith area on Oct. 23, 2020, related to a stolen vehicle. (Submitted)
RCMP nab prolific property offender in Ladysmith with assist from police dog Herc

Police attempted to stop the vehicle but it fled from the area towards Chemainus.

Most Read