Report highlights health issues in downtown core

 

Establishing a team of health professions who provide primary and community care and specialized mental health and substance use services in downtown Prince George is just one of several recommendations in a Northern Health report released this week.

The purpose of the review – which involved Northern Health staff and physicians, service provider organizations, the City of Prince George, downtown businesses owners and other key stakeholders – was to take a comprehensive look at the health services in the downtown core that Northern Health either provides or contracts with other non-profits to provide. While Northern Health delivers some services, there are a number of non-profit organizations that are wholly or partially funded by Northern Health and who are best organized to meet the needs of the complex population served, many of whom have mental health and/or substance use issues and live on or near the streets.

The key findings are as follows:

  • Silos exist across contracted service providers and Northern Health and within Northern Health. There is a need for more formal links between services to support people served in navigating the system.
  • Similar services are provided by multiple providers with many groups capturing the same information from the same people served.
  • Northern Health is following best practice for its primary care homes (PCHs). In downtown Prince George, two PCHs primarily serve the homeless/vulnerable population. Each PCH has its own model with their own unique strengths.
  • There are waitlists for various services. Other access issues include limited after hour services and the existence of criteria/requirements in order to receive services.
  • There is no primary care available for patients without a family physician and no immediate care. There is no sobering centre and a shortage of social/rehabilitative spaces and housing options.
  • Most interviewed has a strong preference to relocate the HIV/AID Prevention Program from its current location. Many commented that it should be co-located with an existing primary care home.

Integrating health services and making them more accessible is the overarching recommendation of the review. Key findings relate to improving coordination and delivery of health services in the downtown, supporting those services with specialized mental health and substance use services, as well as addressing shortages that exist in areas such as housing. Essentially, this proposes a ‘one-stop-shop’ for residents requiring a range of health services and supports, that may also include housing.

“This review has shown the need for wrap-around health care and community services that meet the unique needs of the downtown Prince George community,” said Health Minister Adrian Dix, in a press release. “Addressing health, housing, safety and other social determinants together can significantly shift vulnerable patients’ health and wellness, and support them in taking more positive steps.”

The final report with results and recommendations from the review is now complete and available here.

“The city was pleased to participate in this review and we appreciate the leadership role that Northern Health has played,” said Prince George Mayor Lyn Hall. “The findings confirm that it is only by working together that we’ll address the complex needs facing the downtown in order to make it healthy and safe for everyone.”

The external stakeholder group supports the overarching principle and direction, and this will include a mandate for creating, in partnership, a new space for those services to be delivered in a comprehensive manner.

“We are glad that Northern Health has led this review and included us in the process,” said Eoin Foley, President of Downtown Prince George. “We are optimistic we have turned a corner, and while the solution won’t happen tomorrow, we are on a path that I hope will meet everyone’s needs.”

In addition to the overarching principle of an integrated and accessible service model, other recommendations include:

  • Outreach functions / transportation to connect with people where they are;
  • Coordinating care between all service providers – eliminating overlap where possible while recognizing that multiple organizations are still needed;
  • Primary care for the unattached – through a coordinated and integrated service working to attach people to a primary care physician/practice/home;
  • Assess and improve primary care after-hours access;
  • Develop care plans that can help manage longitudinal health care issues while managing episodic interventions;
  • Develop stronger ties to organizations with community programs that already exist as additional supports.

“We recognize that a comprehensive review of the issues surrounding health services downtown was needed,” said Penny Anguish, Chief Operating Officer for Northern Health. “By working with all the people who have an interest in this we believe we are on the road to a solution that can meet everyone’s needs.”