‘A GP for Me’ grant approved for Gabriola, will fund social worker in clinic and PHC

Nancy Rowan

Gabriola Chapter Coordinator, Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice

Tuesday, May 26 2015

The Gabriola Chapter of the Rural and Remote Division of Family Practice (RRDFP) is a physician-driven non-profit society, created by and for doctors who understand the realities of rural medicine and the unique health care needs within our community. 

As part of the RRDFP, Gabriola family doctors work with other chapters from smaller and remote communities across BC to advance primary care priorities provincially and improve the delivery of rural health services within their communities. 

The Gabriola Island Chapter has received A GP for Me grant to improve primary care for local residents, which will be used to integrate a social worker into the community. The role of the social worker will be to support doctors and social services, and enhance collaboration with community partners to further improve our local health care system. The social worker will work 2.5 days per week and will share her time between the Gabriola Medical Clinic at the Gabriola Community Health Centre and the People for a Healthy Community. The goal is to provide a more comprehensive and coordinated team-based approach to care for vulnerable patients and clients including those with a complex array of medical, social and financial needs. The social worker will help patients and clients navigate the complex health and social services systems, counselling them and assisting them in accessing the services they need to support their health and well-being. 

A GP for Me is a provincial initiative of the government of BC and doctors of BC that aims to increase the capacity of the primary care system to help more British Columbians get a family doctor and improve access to primary care services.

 “We are very pleased to be a part of A GP for Me program and look forward to using the resources provided through the program to serve our community better as we continue to collaborate with Island Health to improve all primary care services on Gabriola,” said Dr. Tracey Thorne, physician lead for A GP for Me

Preparing for A GP for Me

In January 2015, the Gabriola Chapter held a public forum, stakeholder and physician interviews, and reviewed data and studies to learn more about our local primary care challenges, and to explore suggestions to address them. Through its feedback we learned:

• Gabriola has a significant number of patients with highly complex medical needs, e.g., various combinations of mental illness, chronic illnesses, lack of appropriate housing, social and financial supports and isolation.

• The health and social services system is very difficult for patients and clients to navigate and the community lacks a well-developed and accessible data base of resources and a professional to help facilitate access to those resources. 

• Support and coordination among the interdisciplinary health care providers needs improvement, i.e., home care nursing, home support services, case management, public health, rehabilitation and self-help service.

• Gabriola lacks publically funded counselling and social work services.

• There is no assisted living, adult day care, residential respite care or supportive housing.

• Many patients have limited access to services in Nanaimo due to mental or physical disability, the cost of transportation, lengthy commutes for appointments and lack of night-time ferry services.

• Gabriola has limited diagnostic capacity e.g., no radiology or emergency laboratory services. 

Despite these challenges, Gabriola Island has a very strong sense of community, which includes a not-for-profit sector e.g., food bank, community soup socials, teen peer support, meals on wheels, community gardens, self-help groups, recreational and creative activities for a healthy body and mind. 

A GP for Me: Addressing our Challenges

Based on findings and input gathered from the community and partners, the Chapter developed two key strategies that target a variety of unmet needs:

• A one-year demonstration project that will expand the scope of primary care services for Gabriolans, which includes integrating a social worker into the primary care practice at Gabriola Medical Clinic as well as the local social services agency, People for a Healthy Community.

• A collaborative process that brings local community services, governmental and business organizations together to identify priorities and coordinate efforts in addressing gaps in programs, services and facilities. This includes a number of concerns that can’t be addressed within the A GP for Me initiative.  

The first strategy is described above and the social worker, Angela Pounds, has already begun working. 

The second strategy will evolve over the next few months.