Creating a healthier community

A letter from the Winnipeg Health Region

Winnipeg Health Region President & CEO
Wave, Summer 2014

Arlene Wilgosh
Arlene Wilgosh

How do you help create a healthier community?

As you might imagine, that is a question that gets asked quite a bit here at the Winnipeg Health Region. It's also one that generates a lot of innovative responses from our staff.

Take the decision to build a network of ACCESS centres throughout the city.

As our story in this issue of Wave points out, ACCESS centres have evolved into one of the most important features of our health-care system. That's partly because these centres do not just deliver health-care services. They also provide a range of social services.

To understand why this matters and how it has helped foster a healthier community, it helps to have a bit of background.

Nearly 15 years ago, representatives from the Region and the provincial departments of health and social services got together to talk about ways to improve the delivery of health care and social services to Winnipeggers.

At the time, many health-care and social services were delivered by a number of different players within the Region and the province. And although some of these services were co-located under one roof, the fact is the system of delivery was fragmented and difficult to navigate.

As a result, representatives from the Region and the province struck a task force to investigate new ways to tackle the problem. In short order, the task force got to work and produced a report that laid out a blueprint for the creation of an integrated network of service delivery. Key to the concept was the notion that all of these services would be housed under one roof in a building located in the community.

With that report, the concept of the modern-day ACCESS centre as a one-stop shop for a wide range of health-care and social services was born.

The first centre - ACCESS River East on Henderson Highway - was built in 2004. Since then, four more centres have been built, in Transcona, northwest Winnipeg, downtown and St. James. Additional centres are planned for Fort Garry and St. Boniface.

The decision to embark on a major capital program to build ACCESS centres is an important one for three basic reasons: First, it reinforces the notion that health care, wherever and whenever possible, should be based in the community where it can be delivered more efficiently and effectively. Second, it recognizes the simple fact that an individual's overall health and well-being often depend on having access to key social services, as well as health care. Third, it helps take pressure off hospitals and clinics by encouraging healthy living and actively supporting patients in crisis who might otherwise end up in the hospital or the Emergency Department.

As outlined in our story, each ACCESS centre offers a variety of health and social programs tailored to the needs of the people living in the surrounding areas, often in partnership with community-based groups.

People who visit an ACCESS centre can obtain services in areas such as home care, primary care, mental health and public health. They can also learn how to better manage a chronic condition - such as Type 2 diabetes - by enrolling in various classes and programs run through the centre or in partnership with community groups. And, of course, they can access social programs such as employment and income assistance. 

Some of the services offered through ACCESS centres are unique. The work being done by the Hospital Home Team at ACCESS River East is a good example.

A collaborative effort between the River East and Transcona ACCESS centres and the Region's Home Care and Primary Care programs, the team supports as many as 50 clients, including many with complex health issues.

As Debra Vanance, Community Area Director in charge of ACCESS River East and ACCESS Transcona, explains, "The goal of the Hospital Home Team is to provide a different level of support to individuals so they can remain in their homes and have less need to be seen in the Emergency Department or admitted to hospital or a personal-care home."

Thousands of people have benefited from the services provided through our ACCESS centres over the years. But they are just one of the innovative ways in which the delivery of health-care services is changing to meet the needs of our population.

Another good example can be found in the creation of our two QuickCare Clinics. These clinics - one at 363 McGregor Street, the other at 17 St. Mary's Road - employ nurse practitioners to help provide a range of primary-care services. They are an excellent choice for routine health needs, such as minor infections or stomach pains, and, in some cases, can serve as an alternative to Emergency Department visits. 

We have also turned to the Internet to enhance access to care. For example, the Family Doctor Finder website has been revamped in recent months to make it easier for those without a primary-care provider to find one. You can read more about this online service on page 8 of this issue of Wave
All of these initiatives, from building ACCESS centres to improving online services, are designed to enhance access to care for everyone living in Winnipeg and its surrounding communities. In doing so, we at the Region are working to help build an effective and sustainable health-care system, one that is helping to create a healthier community, now and
in the future.

Wave: Summer 2014

About Wave

Wave is published six times a year by the Winnipeg Health Region in cooperation with the Winnipeg Free Press. It is available at newsstands, hospitals and clinics throughout Winnipeg, as well as McNally Robinson Books.

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