Residents of Bowen Island love their community. But like anywhere else in the Lower Mainland, there can be challenges accessing healthcare services. Luckily, here on Bowen, there’s a unique resource called the Caring Circle. Today, we’re here to talk to Colleen O’Neil who’s the Program Coordinator and Colleen is going to talk to us about how to keep you and your family healthy safe and connected on Bowen. So, let’s go meet Colleen. Welcome to ‘Better on Bowen.’ Today, we’re here at the Caring Circle on Bowen Island to speak with Colleen O’Neil who is the Program Coordinator. So Colleen, thanks for joining me today. You’re welcome. Colleen can you tell us who does the Caring Circle serve? We serve all Islanders. So, generally our demographic who reaches out for support from me are often elders or people kind of over 60. But we also reach out to all Islanders –so young families, kids, everybody.
So, how do you serve them then? So, our primary program and why and how I got involved in this is I felt like because Bowen’s underserved around health services: we have one doctor. Really, one doctor equivalent for 3,700, 3,800, people. So, people weren’t getting the health care services that they they actually are entitled to. And, part of that was just from lack of information. And, I used to do health navigation in Vancouver where I helped people access health services. And professionally I did it in town. So, I thought maybe there’s a role here on Bowen for this.
Because people were calling –all the nurses on Bowen get phone calls from people all the time, going, “How do I get a nurse?” or “How does this happen?” “How do I get medical equipment?” And so, I thought, well maybe, I’ll just open a space and see what happens. So, that was four years ago and we’ve gotten government grants to help support some salary because I volunteered the first year.
So, health and navigation is helping people access the services that are available to them that they might just not know about. So, I don’t give medical advice; I just tell people, “Look you need to call Vancouver Coastal Health. Here’s the number.” “Oh, you need home support services, here’s who you call.” “You need a disability pension, here’s a form here. I’ll help you fill it out.
Here’s how we can do it online. I help you do that if you don’t have a computer.” It’s just a whole raft of things. So, that’s the health navigation component. Plus, Caring Circle does advocacy around improving services for Bowen. So, we played a big role in the emergency weather shelter that we’re working on, that you know a bit about. The paramedicine program. You know, Bowen got chosen to have paramedic, paramedicine, practitioners on Bowen.
Caring Circle started two years ago trying to advocate to make sure that happened on Bowen. Because not every community gets paramedicine practitioners. So, health advocacy. And then I think just health education. We do, we’ve done, tons of programs, such as postpartum depression, or anxiety and depression, or end-of-life workshops on advanced care planning, or medical assisted death. We did a workshop on hearing problems, hand mobility, asthma clinics. We’ve done…what else… diabetes clinics. We have hearing testing here once every few months. Any kind of courses that when people come to me and say, “Why don’t you do something on such-and-such,” I tried to take the lead from the community. people do say, “Oh, okay, well let’s doing something like that.” So, yeah, it’s programming, advocacy, health navigation.
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