Programming Connection

Northern Health 


Prince George, B.C.
2017

Northern Health: An inter-professional team providing multi-pronged support

Northern Health, the health authority that delivers health care across Northern B.C. and serves around 300,000 people, has assembled a team of healthcare professionals to support people living with HIV or hepatitis C and their care providers. Known simply as the Specialized Support Team, this healthcare group consists of a pharmacist, a social worker, a dietician and a consulting nurse practitioner. The team falls under chronic disease programming and has an infectious diseases specialist as the medical lead.  Together, the Specialized Support Team provide links to care, peer support, harm reduction, HIV and Hep C education, access to medications and routine testing.

The communities they serve consist of a mix of rural and urban populations, as well as many Indigenous people and people who use drugs. The individuals who access their services either self-refer themselves or have been referred to them by their primary care providers, specialists or community groups that are familiar with the services of the Support Team.

Because the region they serve is so vast (over 600,000 square kilometers), they need to be creative about how they provide their services. “Face-to-face is the best way to engage with people, but it can be hard getting out there, especially in the winter… and it can be costly,” explained Brenda MacDougald, the social worker for the program. To get around this issue, the team offers many different ways to connect besides in-person consultations: telehealth video links, telephone, text, fax and email. Several times per year, the team leaves their Prince George clinic to do outreach in other locations on a scheduled basis.

A positive outcome has been the relationships that the Specialized Support Team has forged with other people working in healthcare. “Ten years ago, the work we did was really siloed. Now, partnerships are being developed between Northern Health and other communities,” said Brenda.

Currently, there are over 40 people accessing their services, but numbers fluctuate according to the need. Some people choose to use their services for a short period, while others require their assistance for longer stretches of time. “Our main goal is to build capacity in the regions we serve by educating people about HIV and Hep C. We don’t want anyone living with HIV or Hep C to fall between the cracks,” explained Jenn Hawkes, the pharmacist.

More information about the Specialized Support Team can be found at www.HIV101.ca or by calling this toll free number: 1-888-645-6495.