Greater Trail program aimed to support those battling chronic disease

The community-based program is being expanded in Trail and it intended to improve the lives of patients.

A new $2.2 million program to help people with chronic disease issues is taking it outside of hospital walls of the Kootenay Boundary Regional Hospital.

The community-based program is being expanded in Trail and is intended to improve patients’ quality of life and help keep them out of the hospital.

The Interior Health Authority (IHA) is directing $2.2 million for a program called BreatheWell over the next three years, with an additional respiratory therapist expected to be hired in the city to work with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) patients in the community, to manage symptoms and help avoid unnecessary hospital visits.

There will also be expanded rehabilitation efforts and an educational component for COPD, a chronic condition that obstructs air flow in a patient’s lungs.

The unpredictable and serious nature of “flare-ups”—when symptoms such as shortness of breath, coughing, and mucous production rapidly onset—means many COPD patients often must use hospital emergency departments.

Proactive management of people with COPD by community-based, multi-disciplinary teams—including respiratory therapists, physiotherapists, general practitioners and specialists—will result in fewer and shorter hospital admissions, said the IHA’s program director of Primary Health Care and Chronic Disease Management, Darlene Arsenault.

“Most importantly, by working together these teams will help improve the COPD patient’s quality of life,” she said in a statement.

According to IHA information, deaths from COPD are increasing in Canada. Within the Interior Health region, the percentage of patients with COPD has climbed from 5.4 per cent in 2001 to 7.8 per cent in 2010.

Trail was one of several communities within Interior Health to receive funding for the program. It was selected based on a number of factors, including the prevalence of related conditions and the demand for additional community-based supports, said IHA board chair Norman Embree, in a release.

“Meeting chronic disease … care needs outside of the hospital setting is, in many cases, more effective and efficient,” he said.

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