HART brings help to rural health care

Interior Health introduces HART program that will help ease strains on health care system in Penticton and South Okanagan.

Canadians are always quick to criticize cracks in our health-care system. But it’s times like these that we must give credit when it is due.

Interior Health’s announcement last week that a dedicated high-acuity response team (HART) based in Penticton and designed to help outlying communities is welcome news to the South Okanagan.

The team draws from a pool of six highly trained critical care nurses who will always be on site, working in the Penticton Regional Hospital emergency room or intensive care unit when not on the road. They will roll out a cart of portable equipment depending on the patient’s needs, and once people and equipment are on board, a ground trip is taken to the referring facility to pick up the patient. The service can also work for transporting acutely ill patients to Kelowna.

Previously the safest method of transporting an acutely ill patient from communities like Princeton, Keremeos, Oliver, Osoyoos and Summerland required a doctor and nurse to travel with the patient. But in those smaller regions, the doctors and nurses in question were the only people on schedule — leaving the emergency room or clinic area with insufficient coverage. Now when transport is required, the HART will be called in to travel with B.C. Ambulance.

Yes, rural facilities in the South Okanagan struggle with attracting and retaining specialist physicians, and the resulting shortage causes disruptions in service. Yes, Penticton is long overdue for its new ambulatory clinic because the province has not made it a priority capital project despite the health authority’s repeated — and increasingly loud — requests.

Even Interior Health planners would admit that, yes, they can always do better in the provision of care.

But there is cause for celebration in the arrival of the high-acuity response team, which will go a long way to easing the minds of not only patients and families, but the strains on health-care system in our rural region.

That’s what you can call care with HART.