The Digby Area Health Coalition is looking ahead to its annual general meeting on May 29, but it also has its focus set well beyond this as it continues to strive towards improved health-care services.
And it can’t do the work alone.
A lot of the focus on what lies ahead goes back to the Building Bridges workshop held in Digby on March 11. That workshop was attended by 78 individuals drawn from most sectors of the health-care system. The coalition says four key points came out of that session.
• INCREASE THE NUMBER OF PROVIDERS: The health-care team working in the Digby area from the Sissiboo to the Bear River must be bolstered and supported by an increase in the number of full-time physicians specializing in family medicine by six. There is an urgent need to support existing practitioners.
• RECRUIT AND RETAIN: Recruitment and retention of physician and nurse practitioner providers must be approached in a way to guarantee both flow and support of doctors and key providers within the system.
• SHARED CONTROL AND OWNERSHIP: Citizens in the area must accept and continue to work towards shared control and ownership of the overall community wellness project. They must be provided with tools to implement their personal wellness and fiscal resources to develop and provide ongoing support for wider community wellness.
• WORKING TOGETHER: All sectors working in the Digby area must pool resources and work to build a healthy community with resources devolved to them by central authorities including the NS Department of Health and Wellness and the NSHA.
The coalition’s Tony Kelly has been involved on all of these fronts since the coalition was started three years ago. He says it’s been a frustrating journey for those who have been plugging away.
“At first we wanted to see and hear about what’s out there. We collected data, including the heartbreaking stories of local residents who have at times felt abandoned by the system. We also talked extensively with local providers and sensed the levels of frustration across the board.”
It was beyond obvious that things must change.
“We discovered that locally folks who manage care in Digby are open and willing to share their views and data. They too are frustrated and seem to welcome our overture that transparency and cooperation are the key elements of how to build the necessary bridges,” he says.
Kelly says working together spells the need to share control and ownership of the issues.
“This is not code for downloading provincial or federal responsibilities on an already stressed community. Rather it is the necessary move we must all make so that we can move things along,” he says. “We very much feel that with the Inspiring Digby project we have found real partners, partners who share our basic vision of promoting transparency and positive change, while not being shy or timid about experimentation.”
Moving forward, Kelly says it is important that all players recognize that goals are shareable and ones that everyone can work on together.
“A community with a brigade of shovel wielding citizens can move mountains and we think this is possible,” he says. “Our support for the practitioners still standing and those willing to serve in our communities will be key to retention.” Some things are out of their hands, he admits, such as salaries. But it doesn’t mean people can’t take a stand and push for the issue of disparity to be addressed. Or to come up with some solutions or initiatives to address this. On that front, says Kelly, expect more to come.
The coalition’s AGM, meanwhile, takes place on May 29 at the Digby Regional High School cafeteria, 107 King St., from 7-8:30 p.m. (NOTE TO READERS: The time and location of the meeting was changed after this week's issue of the Tri-County Vanguard went to press. This Digby high school location is now the correct location.) Kelly says attending the AGM is a great chance for everyone to get up to speed on what has been taking place, “and a time for coming out to lend your voice and energies towards solutions.”
Participants in the Building Bridges workshop held earlier this year included ordinary citizens as patients and caregivers, various health care workers, and senior members of the Nova Scotia Health Authority. Groups represented included the Digby Area Health Foundation, the town and municipal councils, Doctors Nova Scotia, nurse practitioners, the NS Nurses’ Union, persons involved with midwifery in Nova Scotia, the African Nova Scotian community, the Nova Scotia Health Coalition, the Weymouth Area Health Coalition, the Digby General Hospital Auxiliary, the Inspiring Communities Digby project, the broader education community, Emergency Response, and every-day citizens, most of whom are members of, or associated with, healthcare related groups.