Sun Country Health Region covers a large stretch of geography. The boundaries stretch from the Manitoba border to the U.S. border, to Coronach in the west, north to Pangman, Lang, Kipling and Wawota. In that space are dozens of towns, villages, rural municipalities, two cities and hundreds of farms. The Region tries to provide a degree of uniformity to many of the services we offer so that each patient/resident/client will have the opportunity to access the health care service they need within a reasonable distance and targeted timelines.
That's not always straightforward or simple, as we all know. People who live in some of the far distant corners of the Region sometimes have further to travel for a doctor's visit, much less a trip to the hospital or long term care centre to visit a loved one.
Our goal is to plan equity to the greatest extent possible.
New technology like the telehealth service available in almost all facilities that link patients directly to a health care provider are great enhancements, as is the greatly expanded primary health teams in seven locations. Those sites offer teams of health care specialists - closer to home - who can provide preventive and chronic care so fewer visits to the doctor and/or nurse practitioner are needed.
But similar service is only one goal. Sun Country Health Region also tries to be responsive to specific community needs, providing particular kinds of service to some communities and not to others who don't need it. That is the real equity: gaining access to the right service from the right provider, at the right time. It is not the same thing as sameness.
The process for setting up a primary health care clinic is a good example of this. In each community where we can set up a primary health care team of professionals, our primary health care people hold public meetings to determine what is needed in that community and how their team might improve health care services for the public. Some communities need more focus on addiction services than they do with well baby clinics, for instance.
In some communities, the challenge to a primary health team may be finding a suitable location. Sometimes one already exists where a previous doctor practiced so our team can set up business fairly quickly. That was the case in Kipling and Coronach. In Radville and Bengough, the primary health team works out of the Radville Marian and Bengough Health Centres, where space was available for them.
In other communities, there are no suitable offices so accommodations need to be found. That's what happened in Carnduff where the community had already planned a clinic, and in Weyburn last year.
Doctor recruitment is another example. There are variations in the approach to recruitment for each community. The goal of finding doctors is the same and the approval process is the same, but some might need more help from local committees. Some communities are more willing to participate more fully because they are very committed to the goal of recruitment.
Each time a decision is made about service and patient safety, the individual community need and the need to sustain service for the whole Region becomes part of the equation. It's a delicate balancing act every year.