UBC’s Centre for Rural Health Research has released a summary of its ongoing rural health survey. Photo: Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

UBC’s Centre for Rural Health Research has released a summary of its ongoing rural health survey. Photo: Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press

Health care access, cost of travel top concerns for B.C. rural residents

Interim report highlights concerns of rural folks when it comes to health services

Researchers looking into health care in rural areas are hearing that barriers to transportation and travel are major concerns.

That’s one of the common themes found by the Rural Evidence Review, a study being conducted by the University of British Columbia’s Centre for Rural Health Research.

“Transport and travel, the dangers and issues faced when people have to travel,” summarizes Christine Carthew, one of the lead researchers. “That can include a lack of transportation options, but also the financial and social costs if you can’t travel with your family. We saw that concern across every care type.”

The centre has been soliciting responses from the public as part of a multi-year project into rural health care, gathering citizen opinion on that care, and researching those opinions.

So far, more than 1,600 people have responded from over 210 communities, says Carthew.

SEE: West Kootenay Opinion sought on health care issues

Researchers want to know the priorities rural citizens have for health care, and ideas on how those issues can be addressed.

“Emergency care, primary care, maternity care, elderly care, litearally every type of care under the sun came up as a priority,” says Carthew. “Underscoring each of those priorities were discussions of the challenges or barriers faced when you have to travel for care… financial, social, your physical safety. So that was interesting, the barriers to access really underpinned each of those care types.”

Carthew’s group will take the information and do literature reviews on selected topics to see how such issues have been addressed elsewhere.

Out of that evidence comes policy recommendations for government and health administrations.

Clear concerns

Some clear messages came out of the answers — mostly having to do with the cost and availability of transportation for health care, and the cost of staying away from home to receive health care.

Not surprisingly, researchers were told that “mountainous terrain and dangerous weather make travelling to other communities for care very difficult.”

Rural citizens face physical and financial barriers when travelling for health care, researchers were told.

“Expectant mothers from some communities need to pay for lodging outside their community for up to four weeks prior to their delivery,” is one example given, “and have to travel for hours to a neighbouring commuinty with maternity services should they go into labour early.”

Lack of health care locally can mean seniors have to leave their communities, as do sick persons who could benefit from support from friends and family. People can experience long wait times for specialist or diagnostic services.

There’s also a shortage — and not enough recognition of — mental health and substance abuse issues in rural areas, respondents said.

Conversely, some larger communities feel services to their own citizens are strained trying to provide health care to people in the larger catchment area.

The lack of local access to care means missed or delayed services as a result of the difficulties and costs surrounding travel; a reduction in the integrity of communities; and people being treated without the benefit of their local community and family support networks.

Solutions suggested

Not surprisingly, the survey found a strong desire for better services in rural areas. Among the suggestions included expanding of the care types being offered in smaller locations, better and more equipment, expanded hours of operation for existing health care facilities, and more walk-in clinics or non-emergent care centres to reduce pressure on emergency wards.

More should also be done to expand the number of healthcare workers in rural communities by offering greater incentives for doctors and nurses to move there.

If those things can’t be done, then access should be improved to healthcare in the larger centres, respondents told researchers. Mobile health vans or visiting specialists could reduce the need for people to travel for their care; telehealth or remote-care could be enhanced; providing funding for patients and their family to travel for care; and even allow people who live near Alberta to cross the border for care.

More study

The researchers will now take the responses, and research the major themes to see how such issues have been dealt with in other jurisdictions.

Further research into the costs associated with accessing healthcare for rural residents is already the focus of another study being done by a different branch of the Centre for Rural Health Research.

They’re looking to hear citizen’s experience with the cost of travel for receiving health care.

SEE: Out-of-pocket Costs for Rural Residents Accessing Health Care

Meanwhile, the Rural Evidence Review is also continuing to solicit citizen comments on its main survey. The effort will continue until 2021, and rural residents are still welcome to provide feedback.

PARTICIPATE: Rural Evidence Review

“We’re so grateful so many people have participated,” says Carthew. “We didn’t anticipate the response we received.”

Carthew says they’ll continue to share their findings as they are collected and processed.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Houston physician Dr. Stefanie Steel receives her first dose of the Pfizer vaccine Jan. 19 from RN nurse manager Cindy Cockle. (Northern Health photo)
COVID-19 vaccinations get underway in Smithers

First doses are being administered to long-term care residents and priority health care staff

The COVID-19 outbreak at the two Coastal GasLink workforce lodges has officially been declared over. (Lakes District News file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak at Coastal GasLink worksites declared over

In total, 56 cases were associated with the outbreak in the Burns Lake and Nechako LHAs

Fentanyl was among the drugs seized by New Hazelton RCMP in a big bust in early January. (File photo)
New Hazelton RCMP arrest five, seize drugs and large amount of cash

Police find suspected heroin, fentanyl and crystal meth during early January drug bust

Smithers Local Health area reported 32 new cases of COVID-19 for the second week of January. (BC CDC graphic)
Weekly new cases of COVID-19 rise to 32 in Smithers LHA Jan. 10 – 16

Northern Health reports 35 new cases for 501 active, 44 hospitalized, 17 in critical care Wednesday

Brett Alexander Jones is wanted on several warrants province-wide, in connection with multiple charges. Jan. 21, 2021. Kitimat RCMP photo
Kitimat RCMP searching for man wanted on several warrants province-wide

Jones is described as a five-foot 10-inches Caucasian man, with blond hair and blue eyes.

Toronto Public Health nurse Lalaine Agarin sets up for mass vaccination clinic in Toronto, Jan. 17, 2021. B.C. is set to to begin its large-scale immunization program for the general public starting in April. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
B.C.’s COVID-19 mass vaccinations expected to start in April

Clinics to immunize four million people by September

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

The District of Saanich’s communications team decided to take part in a viral trend on Thursday and photoshopped U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders into a staff meeting photo. (District of Saanich/Twitter)
Bernie Sanders makes guest appearance municipal staff meeting in B.C.

Vancouver Island firefighters jump on viral trend of photoshopped U.S. senator

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Police in Vancouver looking for male suspect who allegedly spat and attacked a store manager for not wearing a mask, at 7-Eleven near Alma Street and West 10th Avenue just before noon on Dec. 17, 2020. (Vancouver police handout)
VIDEO: Man spits on 7-Eleven manager over mask rule, sparking Vancouver police probe

‘Unfortunately, the store manager sustained a cut to his head during the assault’

The Vancouver-based SAR team successfully rescued two lost snowshoers off of the west side of Tim Jones Peak in the early morning of Monday, Jan. 19. (North Shore Rescue photo)
B.C.’s busiest SAR team raises alarm after 2021 begins with fatality, multiple rescues

‘People beyond ski resort areas of Seymour, Grouse, and Cypress go without cell reception,’ SAR warns

Most Read