Developers of the Shuswap Community Health Centre in Sicamous and partners with the BC Rural Health Network are asking residents to share their stories surrounding challenges and experiences accessing healthcare.
The Rural Coordination Centre BC (RCCBC) visited the health centre site on Nov. 29 and 30, 2022, health centre manager Karen Eastland told Sicamous council at- its Jan. 11 meeting.
RCCBC involves health-care professionals, community members, policymakers, educators, nonprofits and businesses working to improve access to health care in rural B.C.
Eastland, in collaboration with the BC Rural Health Network, is now working to collect personal stories of rural residents in Sicamous and the Shuswap, regarding access to health care, with the goal of highlighting the needs and discrepancies people experience. The health centre has also joined the BC Rural Health Network Committee.
“We are seeking stories and people willing to share them,” reads a BC Rural Health Network media release. “During the last round … although we had several situations we were aware of, people were not comfortable disclosing information.”
The experiences they would like to hear about include travel challenges, such as distance to care and how weather impacts travel; experiences around seeking end of life care, loss of income challenges, accessing child and maternity care, and any other impactful stories that highlight concerns surrounding living in rural areas and getting basic health care.
Eastland shared a survey done by the Centre for Rural Health Research at the University of British Columbia, which found nearly 80 per cent of rural respondents had difficulty paying for their health care, and 60 per cent responded that travelling to access care negatively impacted their health. The survey was the beginning of research collection for the committee the health centre is a part of.
RCCBC commended the District of Sicamous for continuing to ensure comprehensive health care is available to residents, Eastland said.
The district is looking at lobbying the provincial government for help with the high costs associated with health care in rural areas. They are not only looking for help with out-of-pocket expenses, but also with transportation solutions.
Coun. Malcolm Makayev mentioned the Eagle Valley Transportation Society transports patients from rural settings to urban health-care centres, and will have data on how many people it transported and to where each year, as well as what services were accessed. He also said many of these patients would likely be willing to share their stories with BC Rural Health Network.
“We are heading in the right direction, working together to create the vision we have for Sicamous,” said mayor Colleen Anderson.