National News

Community services to replace some hospital care

By The Canadian Press

VANCOUVER - Patient care will be improved by reducing reliance on hospitals and providing more community services within the Fraser Health Authority, B.C.'s health minister says.

Terry Lake said changes will be evident by the fall after an eight-month review that addressed concerns about congestion in many of the dozen hospitals in the region that stretches from Burnaby to Hope.

He said the aim is to cut down on unnecessary use of hospitals, where patient outcomes have been lower than expected even as hospital stays have been longer than in other areas.

"When you look at the number of residential care beds that are available for the population, the community services that are available to keep people in their homes longer and healthier, the resources aren't being devoted there because so much is being devoted to hospitals," Lake said Wednesday.

"It's a matter of rebalancing and making sure we're not over reliant on the acute-care system. And the acute-care system has some inherent problems in Fraser Health, in terms of quality.

"The data show that some of the hospitals in Fraser Health, when you compare them to their peer hospitals across Canada, the outcomes are not what we would want to see."

Lake said providing better quality of care in hospitals and shifting to more home and community care would also be cost effective in a region where emergency departments are congested because there aren't enough beds to transfer people into if they have to remain in hospital.

Many people in the authority's area are typically showing up in the ERs for low-level needs, causing further overcrowding, he said.

Funding has not been an issue for the health authority that serves 1.6 million people, Lake said, adding the province will inject $60 million into the budget over the next two years. The money will be used in the transition from hospital services to other care in patients' homes, residential care homes, clinics or through primary-care doctors.

The review also found that the boundaries of various health authorities should be re-examined to ensure they reflect the demographics and patient needs.

Services such as cardiac and stroke care can be better co-ordinated across the Lower Mainland by the area's three health authorities, Lake said.

Public health measures, including immunization rates for measles, mumps and rubella, will also be improved, and the health authority will create and publish a scorecard on its website.

The province says the region with a culturally diverse population experiences a higher prevalence of chronic diseases compared to the B.C. average though the younger residents are slightly healthier overall.

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