Why Rural Health Care Matters

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“A major challenge for health care providers throughout our careers is to conduct our relationships with patients, colleagues, ‘supervisors’, and employees in a manner that is professional, sensitive, perceptive, confident and authentic. Especially with regard to patients, our conduct must be characterized by compassion and respect.”  Beverley Kane, M.D., Stanford Medical School — Medicine and Horsemanship Program Developer

Since 2006 I have provided corporate communications support to Campbellford Memorial Hospital on an as needed basis in the absence of a full-time resource. It is work I enjoy largely because this is a hospital that aspires to be and truly is a leader in rural health care. Through this experience I have come to really value the role of hospitals and other health care providers in small rural communities across the province.

Campbellford Memorial Hospital is a 34-bed health care facility located in Trent Hills, Ontario. It serves approximately 30,000 area residents, as well as a large seasonal population of cottagers and tourists enjoying the beautiful Kawartha Lakes Region and the Trent River System. As the only hospital located between Belleville and Peterborough, Ontario, it provides a comprehensive array of acute care services. The Hospital’s 24-hour Emergency Department has approximately 22,000 visits each year. Today, the hospital employs approximately 200 people. Campbellford Memorial also serves as a rural health hub, creating new opportunities to collaborate with a variety of health care community partners to enhance quality of care and improve access to a growing community served together.

Campbellford Memorial has an award-winning team of specialists, physicians and staff. Their efforts were recognized when the hospital was awarded the Platinum – 2013 Quality Health Care Workplace Award from the Ontario Hospital Association. This is a significant achievement given this is the highest level standing and health care organizations large and small, urban and rural participate in this program to raise the bar of excellence for quality health care workplaces. It recognizes hospital efforts to improve health care workplaces in ways that contribute to providing quality of work life and the quality of care and services they deliver.

The bond between Campbellford Memorial and its community is also strong. Its Board and volunteers, staff, community leaders and fundraising team are committed to and proud of their hospital. Not long ago, this small rural community rallied together to raise $2.5 million to support the purchase of a CT Scanner, life-saving equipment for many patients who visit the hospital. It’s just one example of several that show how Campbellford Memorial is overcoming the challenges of delivering health care in a rural community and — there are many challenges.

Dr. Eric Hoskins 1
Dr. Eric Hoskins announces Ontario’s $7 Million investment in rural health care at Campbellford Memorial Hospital in Trent Hills, Ontario.

Providing health care to a rural community can be a challenge financially and logistically. The growing shortage of rural health care providers – doctors, nurses and other allied health care professionals is a problem many rural hospitals face. Rural communities tend to be a predominantly elderly population with multiple chronic diseases. Access to transportation is an issue. Patients who need access to a specialist can’t always get a timely appointment and may have to travel out of town to access the care they need. This is why having access to care close to home is important to many who live in a rural community.

So it was pleasing to see the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-term Care and the Central East Local Health Integration Network choose Campbellford Memorial Hospital in Northumberland County as the site for its announcement that it would be investing $7 Million in small hospitals across the province on July 20, 2015. As Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-term Care noted in his remarks at the event, “Hospitals play a particularly important role in small communities, as providers of care, as employers and as corporate citizens. This additional funding will ensure that local hospitals can continue to put patients first by enabling access to care that is closer to home.”

Overall this funding will help more than 50 hospitals across Ontario improve care for patients through measures such as: reducing wait times, providing staff with additional clinical education and expanding programs in partnership with community organizations. Here is a link to the web cast of this announcement: http://www.vvcnetwork.ca/moh/20150720

For Campbellford Memorial, this funding could be used to reduce wait times for anthroscopic procedures and expand its integrated palliative care program in partnership with community organizations. It will also enhance care by providing staff with additional clinical education and this is good news because it’s the people at Campbellford Memorial that really make the difference in the kind of care the hospital provides. They are warm, kind, focused on the safety of their patients, and committed to seeing patients return to health and to their homes. This is a team that brings their heart to work. It is a hospital full of possibilities.

Given this focus on patient relationships, it should be no surprise that the Campbellford Memorial Hospital and Trent Hills Physician and Recruitment and Retention Committee were the first to partner with The Mane Intent and Phoenix Acres to offer the Medicine and Horsemanship Workshop to medical students, resident physicians, physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals including paramedics earlier this year.

This is a unique opportunity for health care students and practitioners to develop greater awareness of the subtleties of self-presentation and communication necessary for the provider-patient relationships and other professional interactions. The program is designed to address the growing need for interprofessional teams from a variety of disciplines providing a circle of care based on the patient’s needs, which is redefining working relationships and requiring new forms of collaboration, leadership and decision-making. This unique concept of bringing together Medicine and Horsemanship began at the University of Arizona in 2001. It was conceived and taught by Professor of Neurosurgery, Allan Hamilton, M.D.

“As a physician who has spent many years with them, I know that working with horses in a structured learning environment opens doors to self-awareness, and can teach us much about life. The Medicine and Horsemanship Program teaches an approach that will improve interpersonal skills, communication, leadership and teamwork – skills that aren’t always part of the formal curriculum for new doctors and other health care providers. This program will help the health care provider improve the doctor-patient relationship by emphasizing compassion and respect, to the benefit of the provider, the patient and their families,” said Dr Bob Henderson, Trent Hills Family Health Team; former physician representative, Trent Hills Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee; Larkin Health Professional Educational Award Recipient (2011) and Campbellford Memorial Hospital former Chief of Staff in a media release to promote the workshop.

So how can you support rural health care?

  1. Contribute to Hospital Foundation fundraising campaigns and help small, rural hospitals purchase life-saving diagnostic equipment
  2. Offer to volunteer your services. Volunteers are an important part of a rural hospital’s health care team, improving the quality of care provided and the overall hospital experience
  3. If you are visiting family or friends in a hospital, remember to wash your hands as you enter the hospital and before entering patient care areas. This simple act goes a long way in preventing the spread of hospital acquired infections – causing preventable illness in both patients and staff
  4. If you or a family member end up in the Emergency Room waiting to see a doctor – be patient and recognize that the small team of doctors, nurse practitioners and others will be focused on treating those requiring the most urgent care. Rural ER departments see a large number of trauma cases – often to stabilize patients before sending them on to urban-based trauma centres to receive specialized care.
  5. And as you leave, thank the team for doing their best with the resources they have to provide the best quality of care possible.

Jennifer Garland is the Owner/Program Director for The Mane Intent. At The Mane Intent, we create unique learning experiences for individuals, couples, small groups and teams interested in exploring what’s possible in life and work with a little horse power. The next Medicine and Horsemanship workshop offered in partnership with Phoenix Acres is scheduled for October 17 & 18, 2015. See past participant testimonials here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7AGJkHHul8E

To register for the Medicine and Horsemanship workshop see details at www.themaneintent.ca

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