A province-wide study on priorities for health care in rural areas which surveyed the Shuswap along with the rest of B.C. has reached some conclusions.
The Rural Evidence Review, a joint effort between the University of British Columbia researchers and the Rural Coordination Centre of British Columbia, which advocates for rural health. The ongoing will be available until March 2021 but the researchers behind it have published some of their initial conclusions.
Receiving 1476 responses from 211 rural communities around the province in 2018 and 2019, the researchers report states that the communities surveyed are growing and need services to grow as well. It also concluded that the communities surveyed have wide age ranges and so require a wide variety of health services.
In the researchers report, they write that many respondents to the survey said they do not have family doctors and rely on emergency medical services to receive treatment for non-emergency issues. A high turnover rate among rural physicians was also noted in the report.
A lack of access to local care led some survey respondents to avoid or miss treatment to to travel difficulties and costs; they also often have to undergo treatment away from support networks such as friends and family. In some cases noted in the report residents, including seniors nearing the ends of their lives had to move from their home communities in order to access treatment.
Transportation and travel in order to access care was a common theme in many of the Rural Evidence Review researchers findings. Responses drew their attention to Island communities where residents are dependent on ferry service to access care and mountainous terrain and dangerous weather patterns making it hazardous for residents to travel to other communities for medical services. Residents of some regional centres reported feeling like their health care services are stretched to thin by having to serve too many outlying communities.
The report states that rural citizens feel that there needs to be better recognition of the mental health and addiction challenges in their communities and more local services assisting with these issues.
Recommendations from survey respondents included including the local availability of a variety of care types, expanding hours medical facilities are open and creating more walk-in clinics and community health centres to reduce reliance on emergency services and the need to travel outside the community for care.
The survey is available at: bit.ly/ruralevidencereview.