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PHSA recognized for building best possible experiences for both patients and staff at the 2017 BC Health Care Awards

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Accolades and recognition are not the main drivers of the work we do every day; rather it is our continued commitment to improving the health of British Columbians that has made us a consistent winner at the BC Health Care Awards since their inception in 2007 – and this year was no different. The 2017 BC Health Care Awards were presented by the Health Employers Association of BC on June 26 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel in Vancouver, honouring the best in BC’s publicly funded health care community in 12 different award categories. Congratulations are in order for the 2017 PHSA winners: BC Emergency Health Services, the Mobile Medical Unit and Hilary Horlock, a member of our Information Management Information Technology Services (IMITS) team.

Supporting the well-being of BC's first responders: BC Emergency Health Services' Critical Incident Stress Program wins Gold Apple award in Workplace Health Innovation 

Paramedics and dispatchers experience high levels of occupational stress. Compared to the general public, the incidence of both post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide is much higher in these professions. 

BC Emergency Health Services has responded by implementing the Critical Incident Stress Program. Anchored by a volunteer peer support team, the program assists colleagues in helping each other prepare for, respond to and recover from the trauma they're exposed to day to day. 

Peer support team members go through four days of rigorous training and mental health checks and participate in ongoing skill development, including suicide prevention and management. The peer support component is supplemented by a network of specialized mental health clinicians who provide further support and trauma interventions for first responders after a single or accumulation of critical incidents. 
In 2016, the program's peer support team members responded to the needs of their colleagues 537 times and 206 paramedics/dispatchers were linked with trauma counsellors across the province. In 2016, four employees said that their lives had been saved because of the program.  So far, in 2017, the numbers indicate that responses and links to counsellors are still increasing significantly. 

"I am grateful that the judges recognized the importance of the work being done by our critical incident stress peers and our program," says Marsha McCall, program manager for the Critical Incident Stress Program. "I am grateful that BCEHS and the three unions have all come together to work collaboratively to support our employees. Worldwide, the incidence of occupational stress injury is being documented and it is clear that a significant number in this emerging profession have been suffering in silence. I am grateful that there are real concrete actions we can take to mitigate and make a difference for those that are injured. I feel this award is an important recognition of an essential change! Thank you!"

Quick and effective response to BC’s overdose crisis in the Downtown Eastside: the Mobile Medical Unit wins Award of Merit in Collaborative Solutions

Overwhelmed by patients flooding into local emergency departments due to Vancouver’s fentanyl overdose crisis, PHSA, Providence Health Care and Vancouver Coastal Health needed a unique, flexible, and fast solution. 

Enter PHSA’s Mobile Medical Unit (MMU), a team of health care specialists, logistics experts and operations specialists supported by a highly modified system of tractor trailers, tents, and portable medical equipment. Within two weeks of getting the call, MMU leadership met with stakeholders, including police, ambulance and Downtown Eastside social service agencies, determined the best way to respond – and the MMU was operational. In the first two months, more than 1,500 patients visited the clinic and the MMU received more than 400 ambulance transports, enabling paramedics to get to the next call faster.

"Our experience and access to resources, and ability to rapidly plan, implement and deploy made the MMU an ideal, temporary solution to help support this vulnerable patient population during the opioid overdose crisis," said Peter Hennecke, clinical operations director, MMU. “We were pleased to partner with Vancouver Coastal Health, Providence Health Care, BCEHS and the City of Vancouver to support this crucial project and are honoured at the recognition from the BC Health Care Awards." 

Employee helps transform the patient experience – while fighting cancer herself: Hilary Horlock wins the PHSA Gold Apple Health Care Hero award

When Hilary Horlock joined PHSA ten years ago, she knew a lot about web development, but very little about health care. 

Hilary is an enterprise architect specializing in business architecture and user experience for Information Management Information Technology Services (IMITS) and champions the rights of “end users,” which in health care means clinicians and patients. As her knowledge grew, so did her commitment to the needs of clinical end users, and what started as a six-month assignment turned into a lifelong passion for improving the health system from the inside out. 

What Hilary couldn’t have known when she started was that she would become critically dependent on just how good that “end-user” experience was. In 2015, Hilary found out she had breast cancer. Rather than being defeated, she chose to use her diagnosis to improve the patient experience for others fighting cancer. 

Two days before her second round of chemotherapy, Hilary stood before 400 PHSA managers and directors and shared her patient experience journey. She told PHSA leaders that the amount and type of information shared with patients is scary, complex and overwhelming – and there’s no app for that; but there should be and she asked for money to build one.

In 2016, Hilary got the news that PHSA will fund the design of the app and she has been hard at work helping to design those digital tools. The health news for Hilary has also been good: her treatment was successful and she is now cancer-free.

“It is a huge privilege to be named PHSA’s Health Care Hero,” Hilary says. “It takes a village to deliver exceptional health care and I’m honoured to represent those employees who work hard behind the scenes every day but are not always visible to our patients and their families. To use my own personal experience as a cancer patient to make a difference in the health care system is also hugely humbling. Thank you for this recognition.” 

Congratulations and kudos to all our winners! You’ve made PHSA proud. Thank you for your leadership, contributions and service to our organization and our patients and families. You are an inspiration to many. 

For more information on the BC Health Care Awards, including videos, categories and how to nominate a colleague, please visit

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