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Health care services in Lytton, British Columbia : a study of the relationship between the hospital and the rural community Goldsmith, David Walter

Abstract

The study was undertaken when St. Bartholomew's Hospital, in Lytton, B.C., a 27 bed facility, was experiencing under-utilization and the threat of closure. This study examines the health and social services of the area, and suggests alternatives for the hospital. Three methods of investigation were used, involving survey methods, documentary analysis, and oral histories. Two survey instruments were prepared by the researcher and applied to a stratified sample of key informants from the community. The respondents in these surveys were divided into either provider or consumer categories, and stratified within each of these as to the degree of contact with the local hospital. Twenty-five such interviews were held with each major category for a total of fifty completed interviews. A comparative questionnaire was also given to patients of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, asking for specific comparison between that hospital and any other with which the patient may have had personal contact. Documentary analysis involved examination of data from three major sources. The hospital maintained records were examined to present utilization rates according to age, sex, diagnosis, residence location and ethnic origin of patients for specified years. Information from British Columbia Hospital Plan was relied on to provide similar information for the school district of South Cariboo, and for the Thompson-Nicola Regional District, for comparison with local rates. The Medical Services Commission of British Columbia was approached to supply information on the volume of physician visits in the local community for selected years. Oral histories were prepared from various persons in the local health field, and from many other individuals in the community. The purpose of these oral histories was to substantiate the factual material, and to generate new and different information not available from the data. The results of this study indicate that Lytton is probably not going to change much in the next decade, but that patterns of health care delivery, and modes of demand for health services are experiencing a significant change at the present time. The result is that the local hospital has become less favoured, and therefore less used by the local people in satisfying their health service wants. Five alternatives for this hospital were examined in some detail. Alternative A involved no change in the present system. From medical, economic and political viewpoints this alternative is not acceptable. Alternative B suggests a reduction in the present inpatient capacity of the hospital, a restructuring of the governing body, the attraction of a second primary health care worker to the area, and the placement of the present doctor and the additional primary care person within the hospital setting. The additional primary care worker could be either a nurse-practitioner, or a physician on salary to the hospital. This alternative has many strengths, but attempts to facilitate change in the hospital in isolation with little regard to the other health and social agencies in the area. Alternative C has all of the attributes of B but goes one step beyond to house the primary health care workers in a Community Clinic built adjacent to the hospital, and include most of the other health and social services available to this community. This alternative requires substantial initial capital, but represents the optimum for the people of Lytton. Alternative D suggests the closing of the inpatient services, and the creation of a comprehensive Diagnostic and Treatment Centre housing most of the health and social services. Alternative E would be for the hospital to close its doors, offer no services, and make no effort to meet the community's health care requirements. Similar to A, this alternative is deemed unacceptable. The last alternative suggests that the University of British Columbia Faculty of Medicine might take over the hospital as a teaching hospital providing rural exposure to a rotation of resident physicians as part of their formal education. The final report was presented to the Board of Directors of St. Bartholomew's Hospital for their consideration.

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