© Scott Anderson
Nurse Practitioner Melissa Carignan visit with Randy Weekes, Minister Responsible for Rural and Remote Health and Cypress Health Region CEO Beth Vachon during the Nov. 28 official opening of the Collaborative Emergency Centre in Shaunavon.
A solution to Shaunavon's long standing doctor shortage was formally unveiled on Nov. 28 when a grand official opening was held for the Collaborative Emergency Centre in Shaunavon.
Just the second Collaborative Emergency Centre (CEC) in Saskatchewan behind one operating in Maidstone, Shaunavon's CEC now has both the staff and the infrastructure to provide 24-hour healthcare from their home at the Shaunavon Hospital and Care Centre.
Operating as a primary health care facility between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week, a team of three family physicians along with a nurse practitioner schedule appointments to deliver healthcare services. The facility boasts a different healthcare service model during a 12-hour night shift, with a Registered Nurse and a Paramedic on staff to deal with emergencies, with urgent care provided in collaboration with a STARS Emergency Room Physician to determine what is best for patient.
"We know that with extending hours so that people have access into the evening, and that they have access on the weekends, we are actually able to provide the appropriate care in the appropriate place by the appropriate providers. That's been one of the most exciting revelations is that primary health care really will be a sustainable component of this model," explained Cypress Health Region CEO Beth Vachon.
"Our goal is to always ensure that our services are sustainable. And we know in this model we are confident that our key emergency services will be sustainable, that they'll be available for people when they need them, and that's always the prime goal that we have, is that the community feels that their needs are being met, and that we're able to do that in a safe, effective model," Vachon said during last Thursday's official opening.
MLA Randy Weekes, Minister Responsible for Rural and Remote Health, attended the grand opening and highlighted that this is one of the ways in which the province is responding to healthcare needs in the Southwest.
"The CEC offers residents consistent care, 24-hours a day, seven days a week. Patients can be reassured they'll be assessed and cared for by a qualified health professional any time, day or night."
Weekes noted that additional CEC's will be opened across the province in an effort to improve stability and access to health services in rural communities.
"We are beginning to transform healthcare in Saskatchewan, and CEC's are one of the many steps in that transformation process."
Following a research tour in Nova Scotia, where a rural healthcare model was adopted to meet the healthcare needs in their province, Saskatchewan followed suit and began to explore similar healthcare delivery options. Since beginning in 2011, the CEC model of healthcare has been responsible for significantly reducing service disruptions in Nova Scotia. Weekes pointed out Saskatchewan now has eight primary healthcare innovation sites in different stages of development.
"CEC's are a primary healthcare model that works well in communities that have had a lot of service disruptions, and when the emergencies (emergency rooms) have been down for some time. And so this enables the community and the hospital to have emergency service running in the night time model."
As Minister Responsible for Rural and Remote Health, and after travelling to more than 80 small communities over the past two years, he knows this model is important to rural healthcare.
"Access and stability of health services were some of the main concerns people expressed. Our government's committed to addressing these challenges."
Shaunavon Mayor Sharon Dickie said the CEC is important in stabilizing healthcare in Shaunavon and area.
"It's critical. It's number one. When people move to our communities, they need to know that they will have the healthcare that they need for their families," Dickie said. "The oil industry relies on the health services of this local hospital, and I just can't imagine how important it is for them to know that they have a facility like this that's operating 24/7."
The CEC model in use for Shaunavon was developed in consultation with surrounding municipalities and communities including Frontier, Climax and Eastend.
"This is a day we have long been waiting for," Dickie admitted. "The new CEC model which has been adopted for the Shaunavon Hospital, will not only serve our community, but the region as a whole."
After enduring a long list of service disruptions over the past few years, the community is looking forward to that frustration turning into consistency.
"We're moving forward with change. A lot of work has been put forth to implement these changes. The new model will hopefully allow for years of sustainability for a rural hospital such as ours," Dickie said. "This model will assist in making sure these disruptions are definitely less frequent, if not at all."
Greg Dunn, the Cypress Health Region's Director of EMS and Home Care, said there was great detail paid in developing the proper protocols for Shaunavon's CEC model.
"We needed to look at a model of care that we thought would help us, not only recruit new physicians, but able to keep them in the communities."
Dunn highlighted that just a year and a half ago, Shaunavon had only one physician providing 24-hour-a-day emergency care at the hospital, plus serving as a family physician in two other communities. This situation put a strain on the physician, the healthcare system as well the region.
A working group of healthcare employees was put together to best develop a team healthcare setting for Shaunavon.
"We knew that we had to have all of the partners under one roof to make it a one stop shop. We needed renovations to be able to do that. We needed to know who our healthcare providers were going to be to provide that care. We needed to know what access was going to be available, and how to make it available, and what the needs of the community were going to be," Dunn said.
Renovations were needed to turn the hospital into a primary healthcare clinic, with office space created out of some former operating rooms that were no longer in use. They had to add space for all three physicians, combining them under one roof after they were previously located at two separate clinics in separate buildings. By utilizing space at the Shaunavon Hospital, which already had lab and X-ray services, it meant patients would not have to travel to various locations to access healthcare treatments and services.
Since opening on Nov. 4, the facility has seen 1,187 registrations, with 725 individuals accessing the primary healthcare clinic and 35 people needing the ER. The remainder of the registrations would be for individuals utilizing lab and other services.
"I also believe that when we first started to look at this model we were looking for an ER solution. We were looking at how do we keep our emergency room open. And I think what became really apparent to those of us who went, is we went looking for an ER solution and actually primary healthcare is the answer," Vachon commented.