Last year challenged publicly-funded health care systems locally and globally – exacerbated by COVID pandemic impacts and the continuing toxic drug poisoning crisis.
Through these difficult times, I remain deeply appreciative of Island Health staff and physicians’ commitment to supporting the people and communities we are privileged to serve.
While these challenges will remain for some time, Island Health took action this year to strengthen health and care so it can be there when people need it.
To care for our communities, we must support care providers. We are investing in our care teams, recruiting the next generation of care providers, and partnering on training opportunities.
Recruitment campaigns this year generated 5,000 new Island Health employees. We appreciate the Provincial Government’s expansion of training programs at North Island and Camosun colleges and the University of Victoria and Vancouver Island universities.
Primary care is a health care cornerstone. Island Health has eight Primary Care Networks, over 280 additional physicians and staff, and two more planned for North Vancouver Island.
Our investments in mental health and substance use services include the expansion of the Nanaimo overdose prevention site, which will expand into a wellness and recovery center next year. More than 125 new housing spaces will be in Victoria and Nanaimo for people with complex mental health and substance use challenges.
Timely access to surgery is a priority. As part of the effort to conserve hospital space for the most critically ill, surgeries were postponed during the pandemic.
More than 99 per cent of all postponed cases have been rebooked. As a result, we increased operating room hours in Duncan, Comox Valley, Nanaimo, and Saanich Peninsula hospitals.
Expanding high-quality, publicly-funded seniors’ care is a focus. Courtenay welcomed a new long-term care home, and we partnered with Providence Living on a new dementia-focused care home in Comox. Additional long-term care expansions are planned across the region.
As the design and construction of a new Cowichan District Hospital advance, we are implementing the Cowichan Valley Health and Care Plan, investing in community services to reduce demand when the new site opens.
One plan innovation we are proud of is the award-winning short-term enablement and planning suites program, which provides transitional care for patients who can be discharged from the hospital but aren’t ready to return home.
The COVID-19 pandemic remains a priority. Our public health teams and partners did a tremendous job helping people prepare for respiratory illness season this fall by encouraging and providing COVID-19 boosters and flu shots.
Island Health residents continue to demonstrate their commitment to protecting themselves and the health-care system with the highest rates of COVID-19 booster doses and influenza immunizations in BC.
Having just passed the In Plain Sight Report’s second anniversary – we continue to confront the behaviours, beliefs and systems that uphold the legacy of colonialism and underpin the racism in our health-care system. Island Health is fully committed to fulfilling all of the recommendations in the report. Last year’s foundational work sets us on the right path to provide care free of racism, discrimination and stigma.
One of the greatest lessons the pandemic provided was the need to adapt and innovate to respond to the changing world continually.
Virtual care programs, some already in place, became even more critical to service delivery during the pandemic and were significantly expanded.
New programs were also established to respond to emerging needs, including remote home monitoring for patients with mild to moderate COVID-19.
Many successes in 2022 came through partnerships – with care providers, social service organizations, local and regional governments, and our critically important hospital and health care foundations and auxiliaries. We could not have achieved what we did without these and many other partners – and we are incredibly grateful for their contributions.
Many successes in 2022 came through partnerships – with care providers, social service organizations, local and regional governments, and our critically important hospital and health care foundations and auxiliaries. Our accomplishments would not have been possible without these and many other partners.
As we turn our attention to the work ahead in 2023 and the pursuit of our vision of excellent health care for everyone, everywhere, every time, my last gratitude is for the residents and communities across Island Health who continue to hold us up with compassion and pride. It makes all the difference in the world to our teams, and it also does for me.
Leah Hollins is board chair of Island Health.