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Presented by the Vancouver Island Newspaper Group and the Vancouver Island Health Authority | Early Spring 2013

A Healthier You

Family Meals Help Children Succeed p27 When Seniors Need Help p23 Nurse Practitioners A Growing Force p20 Meet VIHA Staffer Steve Sxwithul’txw p4

We Love to Hear from You Vancouver Island Health Authority has staff in over 150 facilities across the island caring for your health and wellness needs — everything from acute care, seniors care and mental health and addiction to environmental services and foodservice and daycare licensing. Looking for information? Here are a few key contacts for some of our most requested services:

Vancouver Island Health Authority General Inquiries Phone: 250.370.8699 Toll-free: 1.877.370.8699 Health questions? Need to talk to a nurse? Call Health Link BC at 8.1.1. toll-free.

Health Protection and Environmental Services For information on food safety, air and water quality, applying for a license for a restaurant or temporary foodservice or a community care facility (to name a few of the areas covered by this department), call the regional office at 250.519.3445. Home and Community Care For information on in-home and community care services, residential and assisted living for seniors and all adults, please call the Home and Community Care number for your area: South Island: All communities

south of Mill Bay, including Greater Victoria, the Southern Gulf Islands and west to Port Renfrew, call: 250.388.2273 Toll-free: 1.888.533.2273.

Central Island: All communities

from Mill Bay to Deep Bay, including Gabriola Island, and from

Parksville on the east coast to beyond Tofino/Ucluelet on the west coast, call: 250.739.5749 Toll-free: 1.877.734.4101. North Island: All communities

north of Deep Bay including the Mt. Waddington Regional District and the mainland area adjacent to it, call: 250.331.8570 Toll-free: 1.866.928.4988.

Mental Health and Addiction Services for Children, Youth and Adults Vancouver Island 24-hour Crisis Line 1.888.494.3888. Public Health Your local public health office is there for everything from immunizations to information on healthy families; call the general inquiries phone number  to find your neighbourhood health office: 250.519.3406. Visit us online for more information and a complete list of contacts: You can also email your questions to us at Contact by mail: Vancouver Island Health Authority 1952 Bay Street Victoria, BC V8R 1J8

“On behalf of the Board of Directors at the Vancouver Island Health Authority, I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to VIHA President and CEO Howard Waldner for his tireless commitment to VIHA, our patients and the communities we serve. After 40 years of distinguished service in health care, Howard will be retiring in April 2013. Thank you, Howard, for your efforts on our behalf. Best wishes for a long and healthy retirement.” Don Hubbard Board Chair Vancouver Island Health Authority

Message from our CEO

contents Public Health – Air Quality


Quality and Safety


Welcome to the second issue of A Healthier You

Heart Disease: One Woman’s Journey


Stroke Success


In this issue we profile additional ways to keep you and your family healthy, including what to do if you think you or a loved one are having a stroke or heart attack. On a lighter note, we’ll also explore how

Focus on Aboriginal Recruitment


When Seniors Need Help


Family Meals


and care of our patients. It is through their efforts that we achieve our goals and are able to offer a level of service and support that is among the best in the world. I hope you enjoy their stories. As I will soon be retiring, this is my last

“It is through their efforts that we achieve our goals and are able to offer a level of service and support that is among the best in the world.” to create time for family meals that fit with today’s active and busy lives. We also want to share important information related to patient safety. Health care professionals strive to provide the highest level of quality care. We have a responsibility to listen to our patients, learn from our past experiences, and evaluate our practices to identify ways we can improve. VIHA’s Dr. Martin Wale, Executive Medical Director, Quality, Research and Safety, discusses how we are continuously improving our practices to ensure the highest standards of care. This issue also features profiles on outstanding VIHA employees and volunteers. VIHA relies on a committed work force and dedicated volunteers who focus on the needs

message as President & CEO of VIHA. I want to take this opportunity to thank and acknowledge VIHA’s 18,000 employees, 2,000 partner physicians, volunteers, auxiliary and our community partners for your commitment to quality health care. Consistent with VIHA’s vision statement, I am confident that with your ongoing support, VIHA will continue to provide excellent care for everyone, everywhere, every time. Thank you Howard Waldner

Cultivating Good Mental Health p28 A Healthier You magazine is funded through the selling of display advertising. While the Publisher, Glacier Media, may receive a fee or other compensation for placement of advertising, neither the Vancouver Island Health Authority nor any of its employees endorses or recommends any advertised product or service, or are or shall be responsible for the effectiveness or validity of any such product or service. We do our best to maintain clear separation between content and advertising. Advertising is not targeted to individual users but may be placed adjacent to topically related content. All advertisements, and/or content that appears to be or could be misconstrued to be an advertisement, will be clearly labeled as an “Advertisement.” The information in this magazine is not meant to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or a qualified health professional before starting any new treatment. COMPLIMENTARY | A Healthier You is presented by: Vancouver Island Newspaper Group and the Vancouver Island Health Authority Publisher: Hugh Nicolson, Division Manager, VING Advertising: Andrea Rosato-Taylor, VING for advertising info: 250-729-4248 Editor:

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Steve Sxwithul’txw

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Steve is from the Penelakut Tribe near Chemainus and grew up in Duncan. He’s had a variety of careers on his way to VIHA, including spending time as a tribal police officer. His first love is storytelling and, after a stint doing some volunteer radio work, he knew he had found his “voice.� Steve is

“I am so proud of our Aboriginal accomplishments and I believe it’s important to share them.� a graduate of BC Institute of Technology’s (BCIT) Broadcast Journalism program and has hosted several programs on Canada’s National Aboriginal Network, APTN, as well as establishing his own video production company. “My goal is to enlighten people about the history of aboriginal peoples and to draw attention to the Indigenous Games for the rest of Canada,� says Steve. “I am so proud of our Aboriginal accomplishments and I believe it’s important to share them.� Steve joined VIHA almost three years ago and is a keen advocate for building the organization’s aboriginal workforce (see article on page 18). “The Aboriginal population is the youngest and fastest growing in Canada, with 5.8% of residents on Vancouver Island self-identifying as Aboriginal,� notes Steve. “VIHA’s goal is to have a workforce that is representative of the Island demographic makeup and it’s my privilege to help recruit Aboriginal peoples to help VIHA meet our current and future workforce needs.� Married with three children, Steve lives in Victoria but maintains a home on Penelakut Island, where his people reside. “I return home as often as I can,� says Steve. “My heritage is an important part of who I am and I want to share that with my children.�

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Gillian Baird works for VIHA’s Continuing Health Service Contracted Services department as a Leader, Program Development. In her role, she works closely with affiliate residential care providers to improve the quality of care and enhance the quality of life for residents. Gillian has

“I find it challenging, always interesting and very rewarding.” developed strong relationships with contract providers based on trust and confidence in her abilities. “I visit the sites regularly to ensure that our residents are having the best possible experience,” says Gillian. “We work collaboratively with our partners to support quality improvement and deliver the best care for our clients.” Gillian has lived in Chemainus for more than twenty years and started her career as a registered nurse in pediatrics. When not busy with work or raising her son, she has focused on her education, achieving several post-graduate degrees. “I love my work,” says Gillian. “I find it challenging, always interesting and very rewarding.” Gillian has worked for VIHA for fifteen years. Gillian recently accepted a one-year secondment to the British Columbia Patient Safety and Quality Council, working on seniors health initiatives.

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Public Health

Air Quality and Your Health: Making the Air We Breathe as Clean as Possible


e often take the air we breathe for granted. We’re fortunate to have mostly good air quality across VIHA’s region. As air quality improves health problems decrease. And while we have seen progress in improving air quality, more can still be done. Poor air quality is associated with making asthma worse and causing eye and throat irritation. People with breath-

Vehicle use (land, water or air) also adds to local and regional air quality degradation. While you might think that what you do doesn’t make much of a difference, the total impact of our increasing population is leading to problems. The solution lies in the actions of both the individual and the community. Here’s what you can do: Think about ways to reduce vehicle

As air quality improves health problems decrease. ing problems like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) may find their symptoms worsen. Poor air quality also causes heart problems along with a number of other short-and long-term health issues. Large industrial smokestacks are often thought of as the most obvious source of pollutants. However, we are increasingly challenged by other sources. These sources of pollution are often caused by us as individuals, usually through transportation and burning. Burning waste (whether garbage or tree, yard, garden or agricultural waste) produces considerable smoke that can cause health problems. Wood used for cooking and heating, if not properly dried and then burned in a modern emissions certified device, contributes to poor air quality in some parts of our region. There are times when the impact of so many people burning for heat or waste disposal reduces the air quality to the point where it doesn’t meet BC air quality objectives. 6 A Healthier You | Spring 2013

be burned as it can release a hazardous mixture of cancer-causing compounds and other toxic substances right where people live and play. Reduce, reuse and recycle where possible. Communities can also contribute to our well-being by ensuring that policies are in place to limit backyard burning and confirm that wood-burning appliances contribute the least amount of pollutants possible. Idling can be controlled and transportation planning can reduce overall vehicle use and increase public transportation options. VIHA is fortunate that some communities have already adopted the best available practices. Learn more about air quality and health at Information on local air quality conditions can be found at this site as well. Follow the Air Quality Health Index (AQHI) to determine local air quality conditions reported with the weather for many Canadian communities ( or your favourite weather report. Know when poorer air quality starts affecting your health and learn what you can do to prevent it. Don’t forget that smoke from tobacco and other substance burning also causes problems for those nearby, whether indoors or outdoors. Cigarette smoking and other tobacco use continues to decrease in VIHA regions, though there remains lots of room for further improvement and many opportunities to provide healthier spaces to live, work and play.

emissions by using public transit, limiting single person use of cars; consider carpooling and trip planning to make the best use of outings. Keep vehicles well tuned, turn off engines that would otherwise idle for more than a minute and when purchasing a new car, consider one that’s fuel efficient and low emission. If you heat your home with wood, make sure your wood-burning appliances meet CSA requirements for safety and emissions and are the appropriate size. Wood should be split and seasoned at least six months before burning and stored under cover to achieve optimum moisture content. Avoid wood that is treated, painted or laden with salt water as it can release potentially toxic substances when burned. Backyard organic waste should be composted or chipped and not burned. Many communities offer free branch drop-off at municipal landfills or may Dr. Paul Hasselback, offer curbside collection at certain Medical Health Officer times of the year. Garbage should never

Quality & Patient Safety

Putting Our Patients First VIHA is dedicated to providing the highest standard of care and safety every day. This commitment to quality care is the cornerstone of all the work we do.


uality care means continuously evaluating and improving our services and systems through self-assessment and open communication. A key factor in delivering quality care is a commitment to providing the safest health care possible — for patients and for care providers. This means we are concerned with everything from clean hands to the best use of antibiotics. Even with an outstanding commitment to patient safety, sometimes a mistake happens. When it does, we are determined to find out why and what can be done to prevent it from happening again. Dr. Martin Wale, VIHA’s Executive Medical Director for Quality, Research and Safety, is passionate about quality care and patient safety. “There are many checks and policies in place to ensure patients stay safe in our care,” says Wale. “But no system and no person is perfect, so if there is an adverse event, we make sure we learn from it.” Staff report adverse events or “near misses” through a provincial system called the Patient Safety and Learning System. “We review safety events to learn from them, in a ‘blame-free’ environment so that staff and physicians can report what really happened,” notes Wale. “The aim is to ensure that a particular type of event will not happen again.” Patient safety systems can be as simple as asking patients for their name and

birth date at every point in their care, to make sure the right person is in the right place having the right treatment. Another simple solution is a robust hand hygiene program with constant reminders and convenient stations for hand washing and sanitizing that can dramatically reduce the transmission of health care infections. Sometimes it takes more than a simple solution to solve a problem. Miscommunication, whether through misplaced files, illegible writing or lack of information when handing off from one area to another, can increase the risk of something going wrong. VIHA is working towards implementing electronic patient records, which will go a long way in supporting patient safety. A patient’s complete information (in a legible format) will be accessible to every health professional caring for them, alleviating communication issues. “It’s not just the major initiatives like electronic records that enhance patient safety,” says Wale. “By providing a culture where staff are comfortable sharing ideas — big and small — on how we can improve patient safety, we create an environment of continuous improvement.” Our goal at VIHA is to provide excellent care for everyone, everywhere, every time. Our Quality, Research and Safety department delivers on this.

“By providing a culture where staff are comfortable sharing ideas — big and small — on how we can improve patient safety, we create an environment of continuous improvement.” Vancouver Island Health Authority 7

Presented by the Vancouver Island Newspaper Group and the Vancouver Island Health Aurthority 8 A Healthier You | Spring 2013


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Heart Disease

A Journey Rose Lopetrone is the last person you’d expect to be taken by surprise by heart disease.


s a former cardiac care nurse, Rose knew all about the symptoms of heart disease, but managed to ignore her own symptoms for months. “I was tired all the time; I even had trouble walking up a flight of stairs — I decided I was out of shape and needed to get fit,” laughs Rose. “I started a walking pro-

inserted into her artery, opening it up and allowing blood to flow. Today Rose is a healthy 46-year-old woman with a renewed sense of purpose in life. “I could have died, but I didn’t,” says Rose. “It made me think there must be a reason I’m still here.” Rose soon found that reason.

and was amazed to be accepted,” says Rose. “I am one of only two women in Canada who have this training and support.” Rose went onto create a WomenHeart Support Group here in Victoria (the first and only in Canada). Her group has fifteen women of all ages, who meet

“I was tired all the time; I even had trouble walking up a flight of stairs — I decided I was out of shape and needed to get fit.” gram and one day I was on the treadmill at home when I felt very short of breath, and saw that my heart rate was 170 beats per minute; at that moment I felt the shooting pain down my left arm.” Rose knew she had risk factors: both her mother and her brother suffered from heart disease. Her doctor ordered a number of medical tests, but nothing showed up until she took a Mibi or Nuclear medicine test; while on the treadmill, the physician stopped her test and she was told that her left ventricle did not appear to be getting enough blood. Rose was the referred to a cardiologist who performed an angiogram. It was discovered that she had a 95% blockage to one of the main arteries in her heart. An angioplasty immediately followed; a stent was 10 A Healthier You | Spring 2013

“After my stent was inserted, I looked for support and resources for women, especially younger women, with heart disease,” says Rose. “There were information and educational materials but not the support system I felt I needed; I wanted to share what I was going through with other women who were going through the same thing.” That’s when Rose discovered Women Heart Support Network, a US-based non-profit coalition founded in 1999 by women with heart disease, for women with heart disease. With members and chapters all across the US, WomenHeart offers training sessions (held at the Mayo Clinic) for women interested in setting up a support group in their own community. “I applied for their program

monthly to support each other, to learn and to share how they are feeling as they navigate their new reality of being diagnosed with heart disease. “While there is an educational component to each meeting, the most important part is the support and the sharing,” notes Rose. “These women are amazing; I’m in awe of their courage and strength when I hear their stories.” Judi Simm, diagnosed with coronary artery disease and one of the members of the group, had this to say: “The opportunity to be in a group of women who have similar experiences, and are able to share their knowledge about what it is like to be a woman with heart disease, has been a godsend. I am particularly moved by the warmth

Women and Heart Attacks From The Heart and Stroke Foundation

Are the warning signs of heart attack the same for women? Women today are living longer, but that doesn’t mean that they still don’t face major health challenges. Cardiovascular disease (heart disease and stroke) is a leading cause of death for Canadian women, and yet many are not aware of this threat.

and caring that is so present at every meeting.” Being diagnosed with heart disease might mean many changes to someone’s life — it could include anything from medication or surgery to adapting to a new lifestyle. Sharing with someone who is going through the same thing can make a difference.

“I know it sounds crazy, but I honestly believe this was the best thing that could have happened to me,” adds Rose. “I’ve learned to put myself and my health first so that I am well enough to be there for my family and friends; this journey has been a gift.”

In the past, it was believed that women and men had different warning signs of heart attack. This may not be the case. Both women and men may experience typical or non-typical symptoms such as nausea, sweating, pain in the arm, throat, jaw or pain that is unusual. However, women may describe their pain differently than men. Nevertheless, the most common symptom in women and men is still chest pain.

For more information visit:

Heart attack warning signs Thousands of Canadians die from heart attacks every year because they don’t receive medical treatment quickly enough. Learn to recognize the signs of a heart attack so you can react quickly to save a life. It is important to understand that warning signs can vary from person to person and they may not always be sudden or severe. Although chest pain or discomfort is the most common symptom of a heart attack in both men and women, some people will not experience chest pain at all, while others will experience only mild chest pain or discomfort. Others may experience one symptom, while some experience a combination. Chest discomfort (uncomfortable chest pressure, squeezing, fullness or pain, burning or heaviness) • Discomfort in other areas of the upper body (neck, jaw, shoulder, arms, back) • Shortness of breath • Sweating • Nausea • Light-headedness

If you are experiencing any of these signs, you should:

• • •

CALL 9-1-1 or your local emergency number immediately, or have someone call for you. Keep a list of emergency numbers near the phone at all times. Stop all activity and sit or lie down, in whatever position is most comfortable. If you take nitroglycerin, take your normal dosage. If you are experiencing chest pain, chew and swallow one adult 325 mg tablet or two 80 mg tablets of ASA (acetylsalicylic acid, commonly referred to as Aspirin®). Pain medicines such as acetaminophen (commonly known as Tylenol®) or ibuprofen (commonly known as Advil®) do not work the same way as ASA (Aspirin) and therefore will not help in the emergency situation described above.



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Stroke Success

Romney Brimelow with daughter Tracy Hilton

How Rapid Diagnosis and Treatment Saves Patients

Sidney resident Tracy Hilton witnessed how a stroke can steal a loved one’s physical and mental abilities when her dad collapsed in her living room. “I heard a sound like choking, and his whole right side went still,” she said. The stroke left 79-year-old Ronney Brimelow unable to speak or move his right side. An ambulance arrived within two minutes of the 9-1-1 call and Brimelow was rushed to Victoria General Hospital, where neurologist Dr. Alex Henri-Bhargava was standing by. “Paramedics had alerted us and medical imaging staff were standing by to provide a CT scan as soon as the patient arrived,” said Henri-Bhargava.

14 A Healthier You | Spring 2013

“Within 40 minutes a scan confirmed the stroke and treatment was started.” Hilton says the treatment was amazing. “Within about an hour, he began moving his arm and his legs, and his speech began to return,” she said. “I thought I had lost my healthy father so it was a miracle when he started coming around.” Stroke researcher and VIHA neurologist Dr. Andrew Penn says the miracle treatment is a clot-buster called tPA.

“tPA is a naturally occurring protein which breaks up blood clots, and when you remove the blockage, blood can again flow freely,” said Penn. “When you treat someone very quickly, before there is too much damage to the brain, the patient can recover completely.” Barbara Lover was also brought to emergency that day, but with very different stroke symptoms. Her husband, John Lover, says she was slurring and having difficulty speaking. “There were

“I thought I had lost my healthy father so it was a miracle when he started coming around.” signs of dizziness, disorientation and she was very upset.” Lover’s symptoms were resolved by the time she arrived at VGH, but she suffered another mini-stroke in emergency. Dr. Penn says in the past, patients with resolving symptoms would likely have been discharged with little more than an aspirin. But advances in imaging technology now allow us to see blood flow in the brain. “She had a blockage quite far down the stream, and the other blood vessels had kicked in and resurrected her blood flow so that she looked okay, but she was still in grave danger.” Dr. Penn says one-third of patients who are sent home after mini-strokes, or TIA, without vascular imaging and tPA, suffer major strokes within six months, strokes that either kill them, or leave them unable to care for themselves. “The impact of preventing stroke is huge, from both a human perspective, and a cost perspective,”“he said. “On Vancouver Island alone, the difference between our best year in terms of intervening with TIA and our worst year is 2,500 days of hospital care, over $3 million in acute care costs alone.” A few days after tPA treatment, Barbara Lover was released from hospital, having spent some of her time sketching the flowers in her hospital room and the trees she could see out the window. Ronney Brimelow also walked out under his own steam, glad his first-ever hospital stay was a short one.

Five important warning signs of stroke include: • Weakness – sudden loss of strength or numbness in the face, arm or leg • Trouble speaking – sudden difficulty speaking, understanding or sudden confusion

• Vision problems – sudden trouble with vision • Headache – sudden severe and unusual headache • Dizziness – sudden loss of balance, especially combined with above signs If you experience any of these symptoms, call 9-1-1. If a stroke caused by a blood clot is diagnosed quickly, a clot-busting drug can be given in hospital. The earlier it is administered, the better the outcome.

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John and Barbara Lover

Vancouver Island Health Authority 15



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atients and staff are benefitting from the increased focus the Vancouver Island Health Authority (VIHA) is placing on recruiting Aboriginal people to jobs in health care.

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“Since June 2011, VIHA has successfully recruited more than 140 individuals who have selfidentified as First Nations, Métis, or Inuit,” said Steve Sxwithul’txw, VIHA’s Aboriginal Employment Coordinator, from the Penelakut Tribe near Chemainus. “Aboriginal people not only bring experience and talent to VIHA positions, they bring a unique perspective that ensures our workforce represents the communities and residents we serve.” Sxwithul’txw added that having more Aboriginal people represented across health care helps promote cultural awareness among non-Aboriginal staff and physicians, creating an environment that encourages culturally sensitive care practices.

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“I’ve had wonderful opportunities to help a variety of patients and their families.” Employment with VIHA also provides more support for Aboriginal communities as they address the socio-economic challenges and barriers that many face. “If someone has a decent education, a good job and is earning a good salary, this helps promote good health and socio-economic wellbeing,” noted Sxwithul’txw. Aboriginal employees are found in a variety of different professions in a number of communities across VIHA. Most of the new recruits are nurses, care aides, community health workers and support staff. “Since joining VIHA last year, I’ve had wonderful opportunities to help a variety of patients and their families with their health care needs,” said Kate Elliott, a registered nurse who is Métis. “A career in health care is very rewarding personally and is also a great way to broaden one’s experience and opportunities.” Working together with Aboriginal colleagues also enhances the experience of many VIHA staff. Helen Dunlop is an RN working as the Aboriginal Liaison Coordinator out of Cowichan District Hospital. Dunlop has spent many years working alongside Aboriginal people and is a strong advocate. “I’ve learned so much from working with Aboriginal health care professionals; it has made me a better nurse,” says Dunlop. “The care they provide is unhurried and fully engaged; family is a big part of their culture and they include patients’ family members in their work in a very natural way.” Dunlop also noted that we all gain by being exposed to the richness and insight of Aboriginal culture. “Aboriginal traditions and a people-centred approach to care translates into better outcomes for all patients.” For more information on VIHA’s Aboriginal Recruitment program, please contact: Steve Sxwithul’txw, Coordinator, Aboriginal Employment Team, at or at 250-370-8643



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20 A Healthier You | Spring 2013

Nurse Practitioners Kelvin Bei and Chaundra Willms

A Growing Force


ocated all across Vancouver Island, nurse practitioners (registered nurses with advanced education and training) are able to prescribe medication, request diagnostic treatments and diagnose disease, write referrals and provide ongoing health care in a variety of settings. Working collaboratively with physicians, specialists and other health care and community services providers, nurse practitioners form an important part of the health care team. Katie Scoular is one of four nurse practitioners working in the in the Mount Waddington area of Northern Vancouver Island, providing primary care and promoting healthier choices for local residents. In addition to her shifts at the local medical clinic, Scoular works two days a week at a clinic in the Salvation Army’s Lighthouse Resource Centre in Port Hardy, where she sees a wide range of clients. Scoular notes that it’s fairly common for nurse practitioners to have unconventional practice settings. “We need to be available for those hard-to-reach patients, the ones who are marginalized and might not show up on your doorstep until things have progressed to the point where they end up in the emergency room,” says Scoular. “The idea is to seek them out and intervene before that.”

“Working collaboratively with physicians, specialists and other health care and community service providers, nurse practitioners form an important part of the health care team.” The Mount Waddington nurse practitioner (NP) team also includes Chaundra Willms, who works at the Port Hardy Medical Clinic. Willms believes nurse practitioners, who integrate science-based nursing with a holistic approach, are integral to managing the health care needs of residents in more remote locations like the North Island. “We collaborate with physicians and other community service members to provide primary care in locations that might otherwise be underserved.” Another member of the clinic team, NP Tanya Petryk, recently returned to work following maternity leave and has resumed her rotation of clinics in First Nations communities in the Mount Waddington area. Petryk believes the approach of nurse practitioners is well suited to First Nations clients. “Sometimes, seeking medical help can be very intimidating for our clients, especially when they have to answer a lot of questions in a short appointment,” says Petryk. “We have the time to get to know them, and make sure they are comfortable talking to us.” VIHA currently employs 26 nurse practitioners, most working in primary practice in community and rural locations. NP Kimberly Hunter is the exception, working on the cardiac ward at the Patient Care Centre at Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria, BC.

home,” notes Hunter. “I’m a resource for staff and because I’m right there, I’m available to deal with complex post-op cases and complications that need immediate attention.” Whether they work in remote locations across the province or at some of the largest acute care centres, nurse practitioners are a growing force in health care; the BC government has made adding more nurse practitioners a priority and has committed to fund 190 new NP positions over the next three years.

Hunter is part of the multi-disciplinary team looking after cardiac patients post-surgery.

“We work collaboratively, each of us bringing our own skill set to ensure patients get the very best care and treatment.”

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Passionate about her work, Hunter brings a primary health care approach to this acute care setting. Her training and experience lead her to think about how patients will recover at home, right from their first day on the floor. “I’m on the floor all day, five days a week, so I get to know patients and their families, giving me an understanding of what it might be like for them when they are discharged Vancouver Island Health Authority 21

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When Seniors Need Help Karen and Ted are worried about their mother. They both have busy lives in different cities and are a plane ride away.


ow in her late seventies, Mrs. Wells is still living in her own home and has been experiencing some cognitive impairment. Her children, who live in a different province, are worried she isn’t eating properly or taking care of herself — they wonder what to do next to make sure their mother stays healthy and safe. George and Betty have been married for 40 years and still live in the family home. Now in his eighties, George has been diagnosed with dementia and has health issues. Betty, still in good health in

additional support. Their family doctor can refer to VIHA’s Home & Community Care Services, where, if appropriate, a file will be opened, an assessment will take place and a care plan may be developed. If there isn’t a family physician, seniors (and their families) can also contact Home & Community Care Services directly by calling the General Inquiries Line for their area (see contact information on page 2). This call will start the process; a standardized assessment, based on clinical needs, will help deter-

There are a number of ways VIHA supports seniors at home. her late seventies, wants to keep George with her as long as possible but is finding his day-to-day care exhausting. She needs help but doesn’t know where to turn. These are just two examples of seniors in our community. Many older people live alone, or live as caregivers to an ailing spouse. VIHA’s “Home is Best”philosophy recognizes that home is the best place to maintain physical and cognitive health and that most people want to stay in their own home for as long as possible. VIHA also recognizes that some seniors might require some extra help in order to be comfortable and safe in their homes. If someone you love is in this situation, it’s hard to know where to start — the first thing is a visit to their family physician to determine if there are medical issues and to start the conversation about

mine their requirements and what VIHA is able to provide. There are a number of ways VIHA supports seniors at home. Depending on their needs and their caregiver’s ability, they may receive regular visits by a community health worker to provide personal care such as bathing, toileting, grooming or dressing along with help managing medications. If there are medical requirements, they might also receive home visits from a community nurse. There may also be physiotherapy or occupational therapy for short-term rehabilitation services, home-safety assessments and education. For seniors living alone, there are systems that can be put in place, such as automated medication dispensers to manage prescriptions; case managers can also help to connect clients with other services, like Lifeline, which provides a

medic alert service. Case managers can also work with caregiver spouses to find respite programs as well as services like adult day care programs that can provide a needed break. Good nutrition is important to well-being and while VIHA doesn’t provide meals to seniors at home, a case manager can make suggestions about organizations that deliver nutritious meals. If there are concerns about managing housework, there are many housekeeping services available for hire; look for these in the yellow pages or online. We also encourage seniors and their families to explore the many services available in the community and to connect with neighbours and friends for added support. There are online resources like “Seniors Serving Seniors” which detail many senior services, some free-of-charge and some fee-based: directory.asp. There are no charges for VIHA’s professional services such as nursing, occupational therapy or case management. Depending on income, there may be a charge for home support services. If these charges pose a financial hardship, a temporary rate reduction may be requested. Seniors are important members of our community and need our support to help them stay healthy and to live where they are happiest — at home.

Vancouver Island Health Authority 23


VIHA’s Volunteers By Chris Foster, Director, Volunteer Resources

VIHA’s volunteer force is 6,000 strong. That’s 6,000 people volunteering their time to do everything from helping people find their way, to putting a smile on the face of an elderly patient in residential care, to providing comforting words to anxious families waiting in emergency. Not only does their support help VIHA clients, it also means our health care staff have more time to focus on direct care. Volunteers include young people looking for work experience, people who want to “give back,” retired folks with time on their hands, retired health care professionals and everyone in between. They all have their own reason for wanting to volunteer, but most will say the same thing: “I get back more than I give.” National Volunteer Week is April 21st 27th. Please take the time to recognize the volunteers in your life or to think about volunteering yourself. VIHA salutes our volunteers and thanks them for their generosity of time and spirit.

24 A Healthier You | Spring 2013

Lori and Brittany Flynn

Michael Booth



“I think what they really enjoy, though, is the opportunity to chat. Brittany and I love to hear their stories.” Lori has a number of regulars and knows their stories well — she gets to hear all about their families, their earlier lives and their current routines. “It’s heart-warming to hear them talk about their spouses and see how much love they still have for each after all those years.” Lori and Brittany have been volunteering at Glengarry for about a year and a half. “I’ve always like doing esthetics and it seemed a great way to reach out to people,” says Lori. “I feel like I’ve gotten back way more than I’ve given. Listening to the residents has really shown me how fast life goes by. We need to enjoy every day and cherish the people in our lives.”

“I learn so much about people and

ike the mailman, VIHA volunteer Michael Booth doesn’t let snow, wind or rain stop him from riding his bike to his volunteer duties. Michael, 24, has been volunteering at the Westhaven Multilevel Care facility in Port Alberni for the past five years. He’s a popular “We enjoy spending time with the older figure at the facility, helping with social events, entertainment and some field trip ladies as we massage their hands and activities. “I really like being with the residents,” says Michael. paint their nails,” says Lori. n Friday afternoons, a quiet room in the Richmond Unit of the Glengarry Residential facility in Victoria becomes a “day spa.” Lori Flynn and her daughter Brittany spend time with a few of residents, giving them pretty nails.

their different backgrounds. They are all so interesting.”

According to Jane Finerty, VIHA’s Manager, Volunteer Resources for Oceanside and Parksville, Michael is a leader among the volunteers. He also knows his way around the facility. “Michael loves to greet visitors and help them find their way. He’s a great ambassador.” Michael is a fixture on the volunteer scene in Port Alberni, giving of his time and cheerful personality to a number of organizations.



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Family Meals

More Than Just Eating Together Family meals help children succeed. In fact, eating together as a family is shown to improve a children’s academic performance as well as their relationships and emotional health. It can also enhance the quality of their diet and promote a healthy weight. The idea of family meals may conjure up a vision of the entire family sitting down at the table together for a carefully prepared home — cooked meal, a feat that seems next to impossible with today’s busy lifestyles. The reality is there are many variations of eating together that can achieve the same benefits. Eating together involves at least one adult and one child sharing a meal together – breakfast, lunch or dinner. Any adult important in a child’s life, including a parent, grandparent, aunt/uncle, adult sibling, family friend, mentor, or elder is invited to sit down and join in some conversation and relationship building over food. You don’t have to sit down at a formal table; you can be perched at the breakfast bar or in front of the coffee table. The important thing is to turn off technology like TVs, computers, cell phones, and handheld games and spend time talking to each other. And family meals don’t mean a “homecooked from scratch dinner;” they can happen at any meal. In fact, don’t worry about changing what you serve. The important thing is to eat together — with conversation and without distractions. Simplify prep time and try a storebought BBQ chicken with a bag salad

or have a pizza night with a veggie pizza on a whole wheat crust. Get your kids to help in the kitchen, washing veggies, ripping lettuce or stirring spaghetti sauce. Research shows that eating together leads to healthier choices. Aim to eat at least one meal together most days of the week — not only will everyone eat better, you’ll enjoy the time together. There are many website offering tips for family meals — here are a couple to check out:

Benefits of “Eating Together” •

Mealtime conversations play a key role in helping children

learn language. •

Children who eat family meals frequently are much more likely

to get high grades. •

Additional skills include vocabulary, communication skills,

learning to negotiate, collaboration and team work, food and money management and math. •

Kids who eat family meals are also less likely to be bullied.

Families who eat together have better nutrition and are less

likely to have disordered eating. •

Teens who participate in family meals are more likely to be

emotionally content and have positive peer relationships. They have less risk of depression and suicide. •

Family meals are great times for the transfer of cultural

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Vancouver Island Health Authority 27

Mental Health

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28 A Healthier You | Spring 2013

n a 2011 study highlighted in the Journal of Health Psychology, researchers compared randomly assigned recreational gardeners to either work outdoors in their own plots or read indoors for a half-hour. Gardening led to greater reductions in the stress hormone cortisol. The gardeners also had elevated moods, perhaps from being outside in nature. Knowing the benefits of gardening led to the development of a new program, “Feeding Ourselves and Others,” a project which provides therapeutic support, life skills, farming knowledge and nutrition information to people with mental health and addictions challenges. Dennis O’halloran is a client of Vancouver Island Health’s Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams which support people with mental health and/or addictions issues who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. Twice a week from spring through fall, Dennis planted, tended and harvested his crops at the Seven Oaks Garden in Saanich last summer. His crop not only helped him to feed himself; he also provided nutritious food to Our Place and Mustard Seed — organizations that help other people in need. “When my case worker suggested I try veggie gardening, I thought they were crazy,” says Dennis. “Now I know growing food is fun and helps others.” “Psychiatric facilities around the world have a history of farming and animal husbandry,” says Dr. Ian Musgrave, Clinical Director, Tertiary and ACT Services for Vancouver Island Health. “Getting your hands dirty in the soil is therapy; it also teaches valuable food growing skills and helps clients work together and find purpose — all of which supports recovery.”

Photo courtesy Victoria Times Colonist

“Getting your hands dirty in the soil is therapy; it also teaches valuable food growing skills and helps clients work together and find purpose — all of which supports recovery.” Built in May 2012, the garden is 6,000 square feet on the grounds of Vancouver Island Health’s Seven Oaks Tertiary Mental Health Facility. Fourteen gardeners were involved, ranging from their twenties to their sixties. All were either inpatients of the mental health facility, ACT clients or were performing community service. Each gardener was responsible for their own 100-squarefoot garden while also helping — along with other volunteers — to grow vegetables in a communal garden. “This project is a great example of the objectives of the new Victoria Integrated Court, by having a variety of people and agencies working together at the

community level to solve complex issues which contribute to criminal behaviour and offer alternatives for individuals caught up in destructive patterns of behavior,” said provincial court Judge Ernie Quantz. Supporters included the Vancouver Island Health Authority, the Victoria Integrated Court and the John Howard Society, with funding from the United Way, Victoria Parks and Recreation Foundation, Evergreen Foundation, VanCity Credit Union and Canada Post Foundation for Mental Health. “This is truly a community effort,” says David Stott, a community organizer, organic gardener and project coordinator.

“We are already making plans for next year’s gardening season because we have seen the benefits for participants, organizations that received free vegetables and the many community organizations that supported this project.” This spring, think about planting your own stress-buster, whether you take on a large-scale vegetable garden in a community plot or grow cherry tomatoes in a pot on your patio.

Vancouver Island Health Authority 29


Partnerships in Caring Hospital foundations play an important role supporting patient care on Vancouver Island, as they do in care settings all across Canada. VIHA works in partnership with twelve hospital foundations, supporting community-based efforts to enhance health care for island residents. Foundations are separate entities with their own boards and make important contributions to patients’ comfort and well-being. In each issue of A Healthier You, we profile two of Vancouver Island’s hospital foundations. In this issue we feature two foundations from Southern Vancouver Island — the Victoria Hospitals Foundation and the Greater Victoria Eldercare Foundation. At VIHA, we recognize and support the amazing work they do and thank the foundations and their donors for their generous contributions.

Greater Victoria

Eldercare Foundation


ave you ever had someone look past you? Have you ever felt that you have not been truly seen? Within our community and care homes, we have hundreds of elderly citizens who feel that way every day, who feel invisible, like their lives no longer matter. The Greater Victoria Eldercare Foundation is committed to showing them that people do see and do care. Since 1982, the Eldercare Foundation’s mission has been to support and enhance the care of the elderly. The Foundation directly supports over 750 residents of the Aberdeen, Mt. Tolmie, Glengarry, Priory, Heritage Woods and Oak Bay Lodge long-term care facilities and generally

supports the care of elderly persons living on Vancouver Island. It also supports community programs for seniors such as Adult Day Programs, the Community Bathing Program, the Yakimovich Wellness Centre and the Piercy Respite Hotel. Endowment programs fund research and education to enhance the way our valued elders are cared for, both now and into the future. Currently, the Eldercare Foundation is raising funds to replace aging equipment, to support community programs that allow people to stay in their homes longer and to enhance care facilities so they feel more like home for those who live there.

Look Closer…

See Me. 250 370-5664 • 30 A Healthier You | Spring 2013

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The typical length of stay in extended care is sixteen months; returning home is seldom an option. Providing comfort and compassion for those at this end of life stage is an important part of who we are as a community. The goal of our “Look Closer” campaign is to collect $1 million in donations that will provide equipment and services to enhance quality of life for our elderly citizens and prove that their community does care and does see. For more information on the Greater Victoria Eldercare Foundation, go to www. or call us at 250-370-5664.

PLEASE show our elderly citizens that you do see and you do care.

Join the Greater Victoria Eldercare Foundation today in updating care facilities, equipment and programs.

Give generously at


Victoria Hospitals Foundation Giving makes us all better.


ur hospitals are there for us when we need them most — and nothing could be more important than first-rate equipment at every bedside and in every operating room. Last year, thanks to your generosity, we purchased 233 important pieces of diagnostic and treatment equipment for every area of patient care at Royal Jubilee and Victoria General hospitals. It’s not hard to imagine the impact your donation makes. When they have the equipment they need, our diagnostic teams can provide more accurate results, our surgeons can operate more precisely, our rehabilitation nurses can help their patients get home stronger, and on it goes through every area of care at our hospitals. When you give to your hospital, you support vital care for more the more than

VIHA works with twelve hospital foundations, supporting communitybased efforts to enhance health care for island residents.

765,000 residents these hospitals serve: kids with cancer, seniors with mental illness, men and women challenged with heart disease, premature babies, teenagers who’ve suffered an accident — our friends, family and neighbours. For instance, did you know that 93% of island children who need medical care receive it right here at home? When you give to Pediatrics and Maternity, you support specialized equipment for all these children, including 3,000 babies born each year, some with complex medical needs. Warm and whisper-quiet incubators, infant resuscitators and fetal heart monitors help our little patients go home to their families. Or did you know that about 75% of health care decisions are influenced by laboratory medicine? With 3.5 million

lab tests a year, when you donate to Diagnostic Services, you support equipment for faster, more reliable testing that gives doctors the results they need to begin treatment as soon as possible, improving chances for recovery. When you make a donation to the Victoria Hospitals Foundation, you can choose to give to these or any of our eleven areas of care, or the area of greatest need. Patients feel it. Your generosity and dedication to our hospitals absolutely makes a difference in their daily lives and to their quality of care. Thank you…for helping us raise nearly $90 million since 1989, an astounding $8.4 million last year, and most importantly, for giving comfort to our patients. For more information about how giving makes us all better, visit Vancouver Island Health Authority 31

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