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Looking forward and looking back: 2018 in review

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​The start of a new year is always so full of possibility. Ideas begin to take shape and opportunities are plentiful. It’s also a time to look back, reflect, celebrate and learn from past successes so we can continue to achieve new ones. 

PHSA is known on local, national and international stages for our leadership in high quality patient care, game-changing medical research, training the next generation of heath care providers and employing best-in-class staff. 2018 was another year of remarkable accomplishments by our employees, programs and services – here are some of the highlights.

Firsts – in B.C., Canada and beyond

PHSA continues to lead the way improving the health and care of British Columbians. Some of our achievements this year have the privilege of being the first: 

  • BC Emergency Health Services (BCEHS) launched PulsePoint – a smartphone app that crowd-sources help for sudden cardiac arrest. BCEHS is the first paramedic organization in Canada to have this public notification service province-wide.
  •, an initiative of BC Children’s Hospital, BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services and others, is a first-of-its-kind, interactive, confidential, online resource and was recognized as a Leading Practice in 2018 by the Health Standards Organization
  • A first-of-its-kind study led by scientists from BC Cancer, BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) found that testing for the human papillomavirus (HPV) is better at detecting cervical pre-cancer than the standard Pap test. This was the first clinical trial to directly compare the effectiveness of the two tests.
  • BC Women's Hospital + Health Centre opened a preemie biobank for non-invasive research that uses cord blood from premature babies pre-term delivery to study diseases and infections – the first preemie biobank in the country.
  • BC Cancer’s Breast Screening Program became the first screening program in Canada to begin reporting breast density results directly to all women and their health care providers with their screening mammogram results. 
  • Transgender people in B.C. will soon have access to publicly funded gender-affirming lower surgeries closer to home, as British Columbia becomes the first province in western Canada to offer these procedures in 2019.

Innovations in research

Our researchers and research entities were awarded $152.4 million in external funding this past year – an increase of about $20 million over 2017. As one of Canada’s largest integrated academic health science organizations, PHSA also provided over 1,700 placements for 454 MD undergraduate students, over 3,000 placements for 793 postgraduate MD residents and more than 255,000 hours of training to nursing and allied health students in 2018.  

Tests and procedures to improve diagnosis and treatment were developed and implemented by PHSA researchers in the past year, including  tests that identify the risk of breast cancer reoccurrence and for lung cancer patients that avoid invasive and costly tissue biopsies.

The first ever Women’s Health Research Agenda for B.C. was developed in 2018, led by the Women’s Health Research Institute and presented at the third annual Women’s Health Research Symposium. 

Commitment to excellence and progression in cancer care

BC Cancer scientists received multiple grants and funding awards  to advance  research, treatment and patient care from  the Canadian Cancer Society, Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research.   

New treatments that are on track to change cancer patients’ experiences were also announced: radioligand therapy (RLT) will soon be available, thanks to a historic $18.346 million philanthropic donation to the BC Cancer Foundation. A gene mutation in a rare pediatric cancer – discovered by Dr. Poul Sorensen’s lab in 1998 – was developed into a new drug that has just been approved and targets at least 22 types of cancer. And Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced federal funding to build Canada’s first nuclear medicine hub, the Institute for Advanced Medical Isotopes, where BC Cancer and other partners will continue to advance medical isotope production and cancer therapy.

Caring for B.C.’s kids 

Our province’s youngest patient population continues to receive the best care possible through some of PHSA’s leading experts in children’s health. 

  • Work to reduce wait times for autism assessments, led by the BC Autism Assessment Network at Sunny Hill Health Centre for Children, was recognized nationally by HealthCareCAN and designated as a Leading Practice by the Health Standards Organization
  • Children with hard-to-treat cancers will receive improved care with expanding clinical trials and accelerated development of leading-edge immunotherapy treatments through CureWorks, in a partnership with BC Children’s and Seattle Children’s Hospital. 
  • Thirty BC Children's and BC Women's researchers were awarded funding from the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Fall 2017 competitions, receiving more than $8 million that will contribute to maternal care, behaviour and development research and treatment of childhood diseases such as juvenile diabetes, leukemia and heart problems.

Transforming emergency services

BCEHS added 119 more full-time and part-time paramedics, dispatch staff and ambulances across the province, in both metro and rural communities.  This was in addition to dozens of specialized paramedic positions added in 2018. BCEHS also introduced the new Clinical Response Model and night vision for ambulance helicopters to support patient care and save lives.


Health Emergency Management BC’s (HEMBC) provincial overdose Mobile Response Team reached its first year of service in May 2018. Since inception, the MRT has provided support to 592 agencies and 6,868 people in 57 communities across the province.

In June 2018, BC Transplant and the province’s heart transplantation program achieved a milestone of 500 lives saved in British Columbia due to heart transplant surgery.

As of June 2018, the BCCDC distributed over 100,000 free naloxone kits as part of its Take Home Naloxone program. A 2018 study by the BCCDC and UBC showed that the rapid expansion of the Take Home Naloxone program significantly reduced the number of fentanyl-related overdose deaths in 2016.

October 2018 marked one year since PHSA assumed responsibility for delivering health services in B.C. correctional centres. BCMHSUS has transformed the system of care, built strong relationships with partners and eliminated the waiting list for opioid agonist treatment, in which 40 per cent of clients participate. Five new community transition teams ensure those with an opioid-use disorder get the care they need when they leave BCMHSUS facilities. 

The(Teck ACC) on the BC Children’s and BC Women’s Oak Street campus celebrated one year of service in 2018 as well, caring for B.C.’s most seriously ill newborns, children and complex obstetrical patients. 

British Columbia’s best

PHSA staff were recognized with major provincial awards this past year, including six women at the 2018 YWCA Women of Distinction Awards, four PHSA programs/staff at the 2018 BC Health Care Awards and another four employees at the 2019 Quality Awards.

Over 30 Disaster Psychosocial Services (DPS, a program of HEMBC) volunteers were nominated by their peers and recognized by Premier John Horgan for the “Above and Beyond Award,” honouring acts of selflessness and bravery in B.C.’s 2017 wildfire and flood season.

World-class staff

As in previous years, individuals from many of our programs were recognized with national and international awards and accolades for their innovation and leadership. 

Greater than the sum of its parts

Every day, PHSA programs and services are there for British Columbians who need specialized care, no matter where they are in the province. Our staff continue to work tirelessly to improve health outcomes for patients and provide the best patient experience possible. Thank you for being with us every step of the way and we look forward to sharing more of our achievements with you throughout the year.

SOURCE: Looking forward and looking back: 2018 in review ( )
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