This year, PACC once again submitted three recommendations to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services for their 2024 BC Budget consideration. The recommendations were:

Target funding for patient engagement within clinics and Primary Care Networks. Patient engagement is a critical component of health care improvement resulting in better outcomes and more appropriate and equitable health care delivery. We requested specific funds for including patient partners on clinic advisory panels and Primary Care Network steering committees. We provided background information and concluded that funds for primary care practices and Primary Care Networks could be used to provide education, capacity building, and honoraria for patients to enable them to participate more fully in their own care and be included on key Primary Care Network committees and clinic advisory panels. We urged Primary Care Networks to seek opportunities for community engagement and develop and expand quality improvement efforts through shared data and educational efforts with patients as stakeholders.

Target funding for patient navigators in rural Community Health Centers and clinics. Patient navigation contributes to improved patient outcomes. Given the scarcity of health care providers in rural communities, adding health care professionals such as patient navigators will assist vulnerable and unattached patients in finding the community health care resources they need. We provided information on the potential roles of patient navigators and a brief summary of the results of the Selkirk College Rural Premed student survey conducted in collaboration with PACC this year (see newsletter article for details). We recommended that the government target funds to add positions for patient navigators in developing community health centers, urgent care centers, rural hospitals, and potentially within existing Health Authority clinics. Funds should also be directed to existing patient navigators to expand their services and service areas.

Target funding to local rural hospitals as an essential part of Primary Care Networks. Rural hospitals are a critical lifeline for rural and remote BC communities. These hospitals provide key services such as emergency and acute care, the absence of which places patients at high risk of poor outcomes. We noted both the negative impact of closures of emergency and hospital services on health and costs of care (e.g., travel costs) and the importance of maintaining them. We asked for funds to: a) train more nursing students, including nurse practitioners, and medical students, preferentially selecting those interested in providing care in rural areas; b) speed up the approval process for foreign-trained health care workers including assistance for locating in rural communities; c) create loan opportunities and grants for rural hospitals to modernize and expand, including advanced imaging (e.g., computed tomography); d) increase pay for those who work in rural hospitals, e) increase access to specialist care for rural residents through enhanced telemedicine, visiting specialist clinics and transportation services or streamlined travel reimbursement.

Mindy Smith, MD, MS; PACC member