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Two RMs and Town come together to recognize Health Centre staff

Messages on white crosses and dressing in red some of the ways to show appreciation to Outlook Health Centre staff

OUTLOOK - A nurse starts an IV. A lab tech x-rays a child’s arm. A doctor listens to a beating heart. Blood is drawn. A dietitian shares advice. Meals are prepared. Appointments are scheduled. Home care visits are made. Volunteers are coordinated. Medications dispensed. Paramedics head out on wellness checks. Bedding is changed. Foot care is provided. Equipment is maintained. Immunizations are given. A counsellor provides support. A therapist helps restore mobility. Floors are washed. A hand is held as someone passes from this life. All this and more is the work of the 110 individuals who dedicate their professional lives to caring for others at the Outlook and District Health Centre.

Located at 500 Semple Street, the health centre houses an acute care hospital, long term care home, emergency department, lab/X-ray services, therapies department, mental health and addictions, public health and home care services. The Outlook Medical Clinic, also located within the facility, is owned and operated separately. The array of services is vast, but it is the hands of the staff and the thousands of footsteps taken each day caring for the community that is being recognized this week.

A robust health centre is a key indicator of a community’s capacity to look after its citizens. Outlook CAO Kevin Trew explained, “Most people need to have easy and local access to quality health care from birth to end of life. I can’t think of any other need that is as continuous as health care.”

Access to a wide range of health professionals is important, he said, if a community wishes for families to feel good about calling a community home. While no one can predict what services they might need or when; the skills and talents of those that keep a health centre running smoothly are important when community members need it most.

That diversity of services and care is something Kim Olson is grateful for after her father, Oliver Green, was diagnosed with cancer in 2023. “We did it all! We did acute, palliative, home care, and more than once,” Kim remarked. “My impression time and again was that these people are a breed of their own. They are kind, compassionate, caring and genuine. It takes very special people to do the very hard job they do.” The care they extended was not just to her dad as the patient, but to the family as well. “They come to love and appreciate their patients and are happy and sad right along with you,” Kim said. “Because Dad’s case was such a rollercoaster, I never felt entirely alone.”

A similar sense of community is felt in the long term care wing, a facility the Fonstad family appreciates is close by. Olive went in to care in Outlook in 2017 and husband Russel followed in 2022. A spokesperson for their children remarked, “It has been immeasurably beneficial for us to have LTC right here for our parents. The benefit is not simply that they are still close at hand, but it is that so many of the staff and residents are people that we have some connection to and that the facility itself is familiar to us.”

A joint heath committee comprised of members from the RM of Rudy, RM of Fertile Valley, and the town of Outlook meet on a regular basis to support the work of the centre. Bree Campbell, councillor for the RM of Rudy, is chair of that committee. She says having this facility close to home saves people from having to travel to another location for services and also brings in people from the surrounding area who are likely doing other business here as well. She is grateful for the health centre, not only as a business owner that is raising a family and loves rural life, but also as someone who has received excellent care herself. She points to the cleanliness of the facility, support she received from the public health nurse after having two babies in four years, emergency visits that were handled quickly, a medical clinic that is well run, and a lab that operates efficiently. She also spoke of home care staff who cared for her during cancer treatments and whose visits and laughter not only helped heal her body, but her spirits as well. “I feel safe and cared for being treated by people I know. I want them to know how truly important their work is to our community,” she remarked.

Bob Silverthorn, councillor with the RM of Fertile Valley is vice chair of the committee and says he has learned how important, yet difficult, it can be keeping the facility fully staffed. “It’s hard to recruit doctors and nurses to small towns,” he said. “We have to keep the clinic and hospital going so people don’t have to go to the city.”

That ability to stay close to home meant a lot to Oliver Green’s family. “We fought to come home,” daughter Kim said. “They can’t do a platelet transfusion in Outlook which was the main reason they didn’t want us to come home, but we didn’t care. It was so important to us to be here. Regardless of being in the hospital it still felt like we were home. Dad rested more.”

She felt well cared for by different departments within the health centre. “The support staff was amazing. In particular, the kitchen staff always made sure I had food even though I wasn’t the patient, and they would bring dad whatever he wanted. The cleaning staff always checked as to what I wanted cleaned.”

That effort to make care so personal is something the Fonstad family pointed out, saying staff are always welcoming and helpful. One of the children added, “When Mom was passing she received such loving care from the entire staff, and we did as well. We are thankful.”

It wasn’t long after beginning his job in Outlook that Kevin Trew relied on the health centre. His family was camping at the regional park when his daughter required emergency services. Immediately his wife began making plans to head to Saskatoon but Kevin was able to say what they needed was right at the top of the hill. “The time spent in emergency and the quality care received immediately endeared this community to myself and my wife, as well as my then adult daughter,” he shared. She and her partner relocated to Outlook less than a year later. They now have a child and call this place home.

Health services are delivered not just at the health centre itself, but into surrounding towns and rural farms as well. Providing what is needed today while preparing for the needs of tomorrow is something the health committee has its eyes on. Bree Campbell stated, “Our health authority is an incredibly complex system. We have really great people doing their best to organize the resources we have available but it is tough. I appreciate the opportunity to be part of the joint health committee because I want to ensure our community has access to excellent, local, health care services now and in the future.”

Protecting that future starts with appreciating what is here today and that is behind an initiative of the joint health committee. Now available at participating businesses are white crosses on which the public is invited to write a message of thanks to health centre staff. These crosses will be posted in windows for the remainder of the month in an effort Trew is excited to see come to be. “The main goal for the joint health committee in this project is to fill the community with appreciation and kindness with heartfelt messages showing those whose job it is to be compassionate and caring that we see them and that we not only appreciate their compassion and caring but we are a better community because of them.”

Mayor Maureen Weiterman, who wrote out her message the first day the crosses were available said, “It’s so important we value our frontline people. This is just a little way to show we appreciate you. This is a way I can tell you the job you are doing is much appreciated. We can’t thank you enough.”

In recalling the experiences with her dad, Kim Olson said, “This has brought back a few tears, but mostly from such a grateful heart for all the kindness that was shown to both of us. Dad definitely felt that way as well. I actually even recall the moment I received the call that Dad had passed, and as I arrived at the hospital was greeted with a hug and comforting words of condolence. A difficult time, but nurses are who you want to see at that moment. They are special people. I could never do what they do.”

In addition to sending messages on the white crosses,  the community is encouraged to wear red this Friday, May 17 as a show of support for the staff who serve us each and every day. Kevin Trew summed up what could be shared by many in saying, “My personal experience with various staff at the Outlook Health Center has shown me again and again that this community is full of gems.”