The BC Rural Health Network held its Annual General Meeting on September 3, at 4:00 pm.

Due to COVID – 19, the meeting was held by Zoom 
We would like to thank the Rural  Coordination Centre for providing us with this option.

The Network elected its second Board of Directors. They represent the broad spectrum of the rural and remote regions of our province. At a meeting held immediately after the AGM the following positions were unanimously determined:

Augmenting the Board will be:

President’s Report
BCRHN Annual General Meeting

Thursday, September 3, 4:00 – 5:00 pm 

As I look back over the past 16 months since our first AGM, I’m struck by the incredible progress of our organization . . . but also reminded of how much work we have yet to do. 

One of the most impressive developments is the growth of our membership. Beginning with six member organizations in December 2017, we now have 40 members, representing organizations and individuals across the province. Looking to the future, we hope to continue growing, adding members in areas of the province that are under-represented, namely in the north, on Vancouver Island, and in our Indigenous communities. 

Another important development has been the hiring of Connie Howe, our Administrator extraordinaire, made possible through funding from the Rural Coordination Centre of BC and the Academic Health Sciences Network. Up until January of this year, when Connie was hired, all the work of running our Network was being done by volunteers and it was becoming apparent that that arrangement was unsustainable. 

Research is a cornerstone of our Network and our partnership with the Centre for Rural Health Research at UBC has become very important for our organization. In collaboration with Dr. Jude Kornelsen and her team of research assistants, we have conducted several surveys aimed at gathering evidence to be used in making informed decisions. Recently, the CRHR completed a survey of our membership to determine their priority healthcare concerns. From the data drawn from 30 respondents, the Board has prioritized the following six areas that we’ll be focusing on in the coming months:

Rural Health Councils
One of the key recommendations coming out of the Rural Evidence Review conducted by the CRHR is the formation of citizen-patient-community led Rural Health Councils within the emerging infrastructure of BC’s Primary Care Networks

Community Health Centres
The BCRHN has been involved in consultations with the Ministry of Health since May 2018 aimed at developing Community Health Centre policy. Our members recognize the flexibility and responsiveness of the CHC model as a way to address the unique healthcare needs of their communities.

Virtual Support Pathways
COVID-19 has caused a precipitous switch to virtual care. Our membership recognizes the need to have this switch became a permanent approach to care.

Mental Health and Addictions
COVID-19 has magnified the problems associated with mental illness and substance use. And rural communities are not immune to these problems. In many cases, they suffer more than their urban counterparts due to insufficient access to services and the high level of stigma that exists.

Access to Specialist Care
Our members ranked this highest in their list of priorities with seniors and those unable to drive affected the most.

Transportation and Patient Transfer
Lack of access to transportation in rural and remote communities has been a problem for years. In one way or another it affects everyone living rural.

In other important research, the CRHR recently released its report on a survey to determine the Out-of-Pocket Costs for Rural Residents When Traveling for Health Care. The severity of the problem is now clearly evident and over the coming weeks the BC Rural Health Network will be working collaboratively with the CRHR to develop a campaign calling on the government to address this serious problem.

As our Network grows, so too does its need to have financial stability. The RCCbc is providing us with funding to the end of March 2021. This means we have seven months to find long term, sustainable funding that will keep our organization moving forward.

We have established two committees to work on this area, a Fund Raising Committee and a Charitable Status Committee. The Fund Raising Committee has developed a business plan that will be used when applying for grants and when approaching other funding sources. The second committee was formed because in order to apply for grants, we need to acquire charitable status with Revenue Canada. What we’ve learned is that there are many challenges and the process will likely not be completed before the money runs out. We are looking at all possible alternatives and we hope to have funding secured prior to March of next year.

One of our goals is to keep our membership engaged and informed. We endeavour to do this with our monthly newsletter, our website, and on social media sites, namely Facebook and Twitter. We have organized quarterly presentations open to our members on various topics of interest. We conduct surveys to gather information that help us make the right decisions on behalf of our members. And we also share information on research opportunities, conferences, and webinars organized by various provincial and national organizations.

In January 2019, the Rural Coordination Centre of BC organized a two-day retreat that brought together rural healthcare stakeholders from across the province, including the BC Rural Health Network. The retreat recognized six sectors involved in the delivery and improvement of rural healthcare services, namely Academic Institutions, Communities, Health Administrators, Health Professionals, Linked Sectors, and Policy Makers. Over the past several months, each of the sectors have formed groups to discuss healthcare issues and concerns aimed at improving access to services in rural and remote communities. The group representing the Community sector is the Rural Citizens Perspective Group, organized by the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council and the BC Rural Health Network. This group consists of 15 participants, with 5 from the First Nations community, 5 from the QC, and 5 from the BCRHN. We held our first meeting on July 28th where we discussed the four initial priorities guiding the work of all sectors; these are:
– Co-creating culturally safe and humble primary care;
– Designing, planning for and implementing Team-Based Care; 
– Increasing citizen and community involvement in health care
transformation processes; and
– Improving access and transitions for patients in rural and

remote communities 

The Group added mental health and addictions to the list, recognizing the importance of this issue for most rural and indigenous communities. It then agreed to first focus on  Co-creating culturally safe and humble primary care; and Improving access and transitions for patients in rural and remote communities.

The second meeting of the Rural Citizens Perspective Group is scheduled for September 29 where participants will do a deep dive into these two priorities.

Finally, I’d like to share with you what I think are some of the important challenges facing us in the future. At our first AGM I reported the need to discuss succession planning, recognizing that the vast majority of the volunteers that run rural health advocacy organizations are elders. Since that time, we’ve all gotten older and this challenge remains.

Although we have maintained and strengthened our relations with several provincial partners, the biggest challenge still remains the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. I think we can safely assume that Minister Dix and Minister Darcy know who we are, but we still have lots of work to do in reaching them in ways that result in improvements to rural health services.

And perhaps the biggest challenge that we face is in transitioning into an action driven organization. We’ve made great strides in getting ourselves organized and that is essential if we are to develop effective campaigns and programs. And we have made research and evidence-based decision making a cornerstone of our Network. But now, I feel the time has come to act. As Shannon McDonald, Chief Medical Officer of the First Nations Health Authority, recently stated, “Ok, enough talk, let’s move.”

So there you have it – that’s where we were, where we are, and where we’re going. It’s great to have you along for the ride.

Presentation by Jude Kornelsen

Kornelsen gave a summary of current projects which included:

Presentation by Stuart Johnston

Johnston gave an overview of the Rural Coordination Centre of BC programs and services, with special emphasis on the Rural Site Visits.