In April 2020, the world suddenly became a very different place. Although we faced so many challenges within healthcare and community this past year, the Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCbc) was able to build upon strong relationships and previously initiated work with our partners. We were nimble in developing responsive and timely supports for our colleagues and communities. What started as mere ideas at the beginning of the pandemic have been established into successful initiatives—and we could not be happier with the progress we have made during such an uncertain time, provincially, nationally, and globally.
This work has led, in part, to the Provincial Rural and Indigenous Framework announced a year ago, looking particularly at virtually-enabled care and transport. We are actively engaged in work that examines what these supports might look like during and beyond COVID. The start of the pandemic last year required RCCbc to think on its feet and move projects along faster than originally proposed. During the initial months of the pandemic, RCCbc distributed over 1000 Zoom licences to rural healthcare practitioners around British Columbia (BC) to support virtual care. The importance of Real-Time Virtual Support (RTVS) pathways also increased significantly; over the past year, many RTVS pathways have launched and are continuing to grow. RTVS pathways provide on-demand consultation for practitioners to practitioners to support patient care and rural healthcare collaboration. RTVS enables the delivery of timely emergency and urgent patient-centred care closer to home. These include specific supports for citizens and healthcare providers in rural, remote, and First Nations communities in BC.
As part of our joint Memorandum of Understanding, RCCbc and First Nations Health Authority worked together to hold the BC Rural and First Nations Health and Wellness Virtual Summit in June 2020. This two-day event attracted over 950 participants and 57 community tables across BC. Our sessions were held in community with Pentagram Plus Partners at the same table, as well as sessions that were focused on each partner table (i.e., practitioners or administrators). Four overarching themes were built upon and emerged:
Many inspirational discussions led to practical outcomes, such as supporting Personal Health Records. RCCbc and First Nations Health Authority are continuing to actively support the various community tables that have developed. The hope is that these communities will continue communicating and building relationships between partners in rural communities to further their influence on healthcare. More information about this initiative can be found in the Summit’s Summary Report.
With support from the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues, RCCbc has taken on the newly established Rural Personal Health Records Project. We are currently in the Project’s initial stages, but have high hopes for success. The aim is to help strengthen British Columbians’ self-advocacy around healthcare, in partnership with rural providers. To start, the Project will look at providing the technology to seamlessly and securely access and own their comprehensive health information. This will help support both patients and providers around BC. We hope that it may also help the transition to health records to follow each person throughout the system.
We also congratulate Dr. John Pawlovich in his newly appointed role as the Rural Doctors’ UBC Chair in Rural Health. This position will correspond alongside his current roles as Director of the Rural Education Action Plan, the Medical Director for Carrier Sekani Family Services, and the Virtual Health Lead for RCCbc.
The silver linings of this past year have been the amazing people on our team supporting projects for rural patients and communities, and the rural doctors that serve them. It has been awesome to see the resilience of our RCCbc team, rural healthcare providers, and community members around BC. This summary is just a taster of the many amazing things on which our team has been hard at work. We hope you enjoy looking through the varied projects and people of RCCbc. We are looking forward to facing the challenges and opportunities that will arise over the upcoming year, and moving forward together.
Dr. Ray Markham
Executive Director, Medicine, Rural Coordination Centre of BC