Dr. Robert Halpenny, CEO of Interior Health (IH), made the rounds through West Kootenay facilities earlier this week and was impressed with what he saw.
Starting in Nakusp, Halpenny made his way down the Slocan Valley, visiting New Denver and Nelson before arriving in Castlegar on Tuesday afternoon.
“One of my objectives is standardization across the health authority,” Halpenny said. “So, what we’re trying to do is have equity of access across the facilities.
“When I look at the facilities and how they stand up — again, being in Nakusp, New Denver and today in Nelson … the new additions there — they stand up very well.”
As for Castlegar, Halpenny called the Health Centre “terrific.”
“It’s a great public and integrated health care centre; it provides a continuity of care that I am very impressed with and the local physicians and their provisions of continuity and care, so it stands up very well.”
Halpenny was appointed CEO of IH in January 2010. Prior to that, he was senior medical director and also served as the provincial executive director of cardiac services at the Provincial Health Services Authority.
“I’ve been in this business for 30 years and I’m constantly learning some little nuance about health care in a local region,” he said. “It’s very difficult for patients to navigate this very, very complex system. So education of the public about the system and the constraints and restraints of the system — it’s really important in a universal system. We have to start educating the public on quality and cost and appropriateness. It’s a very important topic.”
Halpenny said he was open to a public health forum in Castlegar, but the purpose would have to be determined first.
“Is the purpose to have public input? Is the purpose to have an opportunity to express either their pleasure or displeasure? So the first step is to determine what’s the purpose of having a forum, and then we’ll move forward,” he said. “I’m more than willing to share the direction we’re going with Interior Health, and I’m more than willing to have community involvement, but again understanding the complexity of health care. So sometimes we may be looking at having a session to describe some of the different complexities of health care that actually the public may not be aware of.”
During his trip through the West Kootenay, Halpenny made a point of meeting with not only the staff and physicians at the facilities, but with the foundations and auxiliaries as well.
“What I’m really trying to do is make sure the communities know who I am, where I’m trying to take Interior Health, and to understand what their issues are,” he said.
Halpenny said the only way to understand what the issues are locally is to see them firsthand.
Halpenny said IH is in a unique position because it not only serves larger centres like Kelowna, but also small villages like New Denver.
“It’s a very unique situation when I compare us to Vancouver Island — a little bit different, not the same distances,” he said. “We’re certainly different than the north — they have very wide areas but scattered population. We have pockets of population across the health authority. We’re the size of the state of Oregon, we’re about 750,000 people. Interior Health has a budget of $1.7 billion, 18,000 employees, so we’re a big player in the game of the economies of a lot of different places. We have to take that into consideration.”
The CEO tour of IH facilities happens bi-annually, Halpenny said. The tour continued this week in Trail.