Saturday, May 30, 2009

Health Care in rural areas

For the many who retire in Muskoka, where I live - see the map, there are difficult issues not yet addressed in city-centric media: environment (noise & light pollution, wells and septic systems), social, tourism, employment, education, addictions, access to services, rural politics, access to health care, media, transportation peculiar to those NOT in a city.

In a study by Dr. Hsien Seow, he found that "patients living in rural areas used 20% less nursing and 7% less personal support hours/week, that those living in non-rural areas."
Do you suppose this is by choice? Or do we have access issues? Local papers constantly feature ads for nurses or PSWs. Most of my friends in the business of senior care state this concern.

In fact, what I believe is that since about 50% of us in, for example, the province of Ontario DO NOT live in the big cities and we have more in common with one another than we might expect.

The Ontario LHIN (gatekeepers of Ontarian health care dollars) has published,
May 2, 2006North Simcoe Muskoka (NSM) Population Health Profile (PDF)

--NSM LHIN's overall population health profile.

Interesting information: relative to the province, NSM has a higher
  • annual average population growth rate
  • proportion of older people, daily smokers,
  • prevalence of activity limitations,arthritis/rheumatism
  • age-standardized all-cause mortality and hospitalization rates.
We have a lower
  • percentage of immigrants, visible minorities and Francophones
  • percentage of the population who have had contact with a physician
  • life expectancy at birth for both men and women
  • low proportion of young adults.
Simcoe Muskoka health statistics are clear:
"The population in Simcoe Muskoka is aging, which is consistent with trends across Ontario and Canada. In Simcoe Muskoka the percentage of those 45- to 64-years-old increased to 27% of the total population in 2006 from 23% of the total population in 2001. The proportion of seniors (65+) also increased slightly to 14% in 2006 from 13% in 2001."

What seems clear is that we must concentrate as much on accessing health care in all regions of the province. With highly trained physicians, well-versed in issues pertaining to geriatric medicine: including palliative care, pain control and chronic diseases that befall those in the higher age brackets.

Phone-in shows do not take this into account. Summer visitors, and seasonal residents, complain about taxes, but when they drop of a heart attack in rural climes, they want roads and infrastructure that easily conveys them to a hospital.

Most of us succumb to circulatory system diseases or Neoplasms (tumours), resulting in hospital visits and Primary Care interventions. It behooves you to be prepared, and ensure that your health care plan takes into account long-term issues, and the ability to access treatment where and when you retire. Those who retire in northern, rural communities fail to realize the disparities between rural and urban delivery of services. Many require transportation to and from the city.
Simcoe Muskoka swine flu count up to nine, including one in Alliston
New Tecumseth Free Press - Ontario, Canada
Ontario's acting Chief Medical Officer of Health reported this afternoon that there are 131 new confirmed cases of H1N1 flu virus since Wednesday,
Posted May 29, 2009

Seow, H. (2008). The use of end-of-life homecare services in Ontario, Canada: Is it associated with using fewer acute care services? (

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