Kip Woodward, chairman of Vancouver Coastal Health reflects on the last 14 years as VCH enters its 15th year.
Fourteen years ago this month, the B.C. government merged 52 health organizations into five regional and one provincewide specialized service health authorities. Vancouver Coastal Health was one of those five regional health authorities. The start of our 15th year of delivering health care services is a time to look at what has changed, and some of the core features that have been with us since the start and will continue to serve patients well into the future.
In 2001, the creation of VCH made it responsible for the delivery of care across a sizable part of British Columbia. Our service area still covers 12 municipalities — including Vancouver, Richmond, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola — plus 14 Aboriginal communities and four regional districts. Back then, the population within the VCH operational area was just over one million. By the end of 2014, it was 1,146,312, an increase of more than 14 per cent.
Prior to 2001, the health governance model was one of the most complicated and expensive in the country, resulting in inefficient and often ineffective management of health-care resources. The combination of small rural and large urban health organizations created huge disparities in terms of facilities and access to health services.
That has changed. And for the better. VCH today administers 13 hospitals, 15 community health centres, three diagnostic and treatment centres, and more than 500 facilities providing direct and contracted services, such as home and community care, mental health services, population and preventive health, addictions services, and primary care.
In 2001, there were 276,000 visits to Emergency Rooms in the VCH operational region. Last year, that number had increased nearly 50 per cent to 414,000 ER visits annually. There were 591,987 visits to health clinics in the VCH area in 2001. By the end of 2014, that number had nearly doubled, to more than one million visits a year, with the number of facilities providing this care remaining unchanged.
Numbers are up across the full array of health services. Since VCH was created, acute-care discharges — people admitted to a hospital, treated, and discharged — have increased 13.7 per cent a year. Last year alone, VCH served 32,215 in-patient cases, and 46,529 day-care surgical cases. Transplant surgeries have increased by 50 per cent since 2001.
These are large numbers, and each is a person. What might be missed in considering this scope of service to so many is how VCH and its staff meet the need for services. What’s key to our achievements is how our 2,100 physicians, 14,300 full- and part-time staff, and more than 3,000 volunteers — who make our health care services and programs accessible to over one million B.C. residents — are able to deal with the demand.
Three words can cover it: Dedication, adaptation and innovation.
Whether it’s our continuing drive for excellence in patient-centred health care or engaging our public in ways to achieve that, these three words mark all that we do, even in areas where you’ll hopefully never have need to experience their impact.
There’s probably no better example of this than our Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams.
In 2012, VCH established the ACT teams to address the challenges of providing care, treatment and support for individuals with mental illness, or addictions, or multiple complex needs, in areas such as the Downtown Eastside. Without this approach, these clients would be forced to turn to emergency rooms, long stretches in hospital, or confrontations with police because of their illness and addiction; nobody benefits from that — not the individual, their family, nor the community.
VCH’s ACT teams have produced remarkable results:
- Mental health-related violent incidents are down 27 per cent
- Street disorder has been reduced 71 per cent
- Substance offences have decreased 41 per cent
- Violent offences in the ACT team areas of operation are down 36 per cent
This is real progress.
Moreover, VCH knows that building communities is achieved through the shared and critical contribution of B.C.’s private and public sectors, to make our health care services and programs accessible in our communities. Along the way, they make them caring and sustainable places to live. Accordingly, VCH purchased nearly $310 million worth of goods and services last year from more than 1,800 businesses across the Metro Vancouver region.
Along with the challenges that are always present in any health care system — such as budgets, costs and the search for highly skilled people — even greater possibilities and opportunities will emerge in 2016.
We know that VCH and B.C. are not the only innovators. There is a great deal going on around the world and it is a great time to learn from other jurisdictions and to share best practices. The new federal government will meet with provincial health ministers in the coming year and we hope more work can be done to support even better outcomes and patient satisfaction.
Through our performance over the past 14 years and the dedication of our staff, doctors, volunteers and philanthropic partners, VCH is well positioned to play a constructive leadership role in that work. Indeed, as we enter our 15th year, we’re more committed than ever.
Dedication. Adaptation. Innovation. We’ll not let up now.