Summerland asked to join BC Rural Health Network to add another voice to the fight for health equity

Fight for rural health equity

The District of Summerland will be considering an invitation to join a rural health advocacy group, after being presented with a membership opportunity during Monday's council meeting.

The BC Rural Health Network (BCRHM), which is a collective of individuals, rural health advocacy groups, volunteers, healthcare providers, research groups and nonprofits, works to champion rural health issues.

The group presents the Ministry of Health with concerns and recommendations.

Two representatives spoke to council members as a delegation to the district to join their cause.

"Our purpose is to share successful strategies in an effort to address rural healthcare concerns. We advocate for policy changes that provide overall residents with attachment to a health care practitioner," Paul Adams, an administrator with the BC RHM said.

After the presentation, Mayor Doug Holmes asked how the group would define rural, as Summerland isn’t considered a rural community by the ministry.

“They kind of lump us in with Penticton and we're considered an urban community with it. This creates barriers for us to access programs such as the rural primary care network, for example. And so we're fighting this uphill battle to be recognized as a rural community with the ministry,” Holmes said.

Adams replied by saying that the issue isn't uncommon and that it would be looked into while they don't have an immediate solution.

“I think that is a type of scenario, which is going to apply to many midsize communities that have relatively close proximity to larger centers and something that we would definitely bring up through our implementation committee and into action,” he said.

The advocacy group currently has 18 rural communities among its members, including Oliver, Golden, Dawson Creek, Radium Hot Springs and Sun Peaks Municipality.

Coun. Adrienne Betts asked what the end goal of having municipalities included in the advocacy group.

“It's an umbrella organization, so we're wanting to increase our representative voice. We're not looking at championing individual community issues, we're looking at overarching issues which impact all residents,” Adams said.

Membership is $50 per year.

“We’re not looking to make a financial gain off the joining of your municipality to our group. We’re looking to represent people on common issues,” said Adams.

He added that the group is set up for bringing solutions to the table and interacting positively with the health authority level, the Ministry of Health, and other government agencies.

“Equity in health outcomes for all residents in BC is the ultimate goal. So if you encounter a medical issue and live rurally, you can expect a similar outcome to somebody who lived in an urban environment.”

Summerland council didn't make a decision on Monday about whether to join the group and will likely review it at a later date.

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