Three years ago a comparison of the Princeton health care system to a hospital patient might have included the words palliative and life-support.
The town had three doctors – not close to enough to meet the needs of the population – and only one of those doctors could perform emergency care. People were angry, protests were staged and committees were formed.
Today that same patient may not quite be in the pink of health, but it is certainly much improved and working briskly towards recovery.
At least, that is the feeling coming from organizers of the town’s second health care community consultation.
“It feels pretty good,” said Ed Staples, president of the Princeton Health Care Steering Committee. “In fact it feels great. There’s the feeling of accomplishment here, and a feeling that there is pride when we recognize the fact that there has been a lot of work done by a lot of different people and we are really pleased by the results.
“Then on the other side there’s the feeling we still have a lot of work to do.”
The results of improvements to health care were underlined last week when a new doctor began seeing patients at Cascade Medical Clinic, said Staples. Details of the new practice cannot be released until Interior Health makes a formal announcement.
“What I can tell you is that as a community resident I’m thrilled that we have four fulltime doctors and two nurse practitioners in our community. That’s really quite exciting when you consider at one point three years ago we only had one doctor that was doing ER,” he said.
“We are only one doctor away from having the full compliment of the practitioners for our community. Our hospital and the Cascade clinic are fully staffed. There are no vacancies.”
Staples said the community consultation process, which took place last week over three hours and involved approximately 50 community leaders and stakeholders, produced a much more positive result than a similar exercise held three years ago when local care was in crisis.
“The first time around the tone was very different. There was a lot of animosity, a lot of frustration and anger within the community,” he said.
Participants were asked to identify current strengths of the health care system, existing challenges and recommendations for moving forward.
“The strengths we identified this time far outweighed the number of concerns and challenges that we have.”
The consultation revealed that many people in Princeton are still unaware of some of the vital services that are available here, said Staples.
“Access to specialties would be a good example of that. It came as a surprise to a lot of people how much is available in our community…Home care came up as being a another positive. I think that people aren’t aware of what is available.”
Communication will be a key part of health care strategy going forward, he said. “The big take away [from the meeting] was that we need to be doing a better job on communicating with patients and providing education to the community to make them more aware.”
Other common themes expressed during the consultation included the need to maximize use of tele-health services and to facilitate healthy living opportunities for seniors.
Staples said that unfortunately there are some health service concerns that will likely never be fully satisfied.
“Some people would like us to go back to the time 20 years ago when some of the services were being provided like maternity and an operating room. It’s understandable that some people would like to go back to that but under the present arrangements we have with the Ministry of Health and Interior Health that isn’t something that we could work towards. It’s probably not realistic.”