Champlain LHIN Helping People Breathe Easier

Lung Health Program Improving Lives of Rural Patients

Jan 3, 2018 - Bernice MacMillan, 57, was diagnosed four years ago with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease or COPD, a serious chronic disease affecting many people in the Champlain region. Bernice had been a smoker for 30 years, but recently quit, thanks to the new Cornwall Community Lung Health Program at the Seaway Valley Community Health Centre. The program has also improved her quality of life, helping her avoid frequent visits to the emergency room. “It has been a godsend to me,” she says.

The program was created by the Champlain LHIN, Seaway Valley Community Health Centre, and Cornwall Community Hospital. Designed to decrease rates of hospital readmissions and emergency room visits, the program is improving the health of rural patients with COPD, giving them the tools they need to maintain their well-being at home. Patients with respiratory conditions now experience a more seamless transition from the hospital back to the community.

“This program is a good example of how the LHIN is integrating the health system to improve the patient experience,” explains Chantale LeClerc, Champlain LHIN CEO. “It’s bringing together partners in different areas of health care—in this case, a hospital and a community health centre—so that people can receive services that are well-coordinated and of high quality. As a result, we are making a positive difference to the lives of so many people affected by chronic lung disease.”

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The Cornwall Community Lung Health Program consists of a nurse practitioner, registered nurse, and respiratory therapist. The nurse practitioner provides bedside visits to those admitted to hospital. As well, she conducts home visits for clients who are unable to visit the community health centre. The program has reduced wait times for lung health services - at the hospital and at the community health centre. A recent evaluation showed positive results, with people reporting improved health outcomes.

Bernice says that before joining the lung health program, she was unsure if she would live to see the next year. After constant visits to the hospital, she would go home feeling very discouraged. Although Bernice sees specialists in Ottawa, she appreciates receiving basic care in Cornwall. “Seaway (Valley Community Health Centre) is close to my home. I drive there, and I don’t have to worry about parking. People can use transit as well. It is nice to see the program in the community.”

Bernice MacMillan and JoAnn Belmore
Bernice MacMillan and JoAnn Belmore

JoAnn Belmore, the program’s respiratory therapist, recalls when Bernice first entered the program. “Bernice had just been admitted to the hospital with COPD and was referred to the program. If I have to use one word to describe her, it was ‘afraid.’ She was afraid to leave the house, afraid to be alone in the house, and afraid of dying. Her life was out of control because of her breathing. She didn’t know when she would end up at the hospital again. Her quality of life was extremely poor. But soon after joining the program, Bernice was put on the right medications, she attended a number of education sessions including ‘Living with COPD’, and gained control over the disease process. She was given oxygen as well, which she carries with her wherever she goes. Her quality of life has gone from 0 to probably 10. She is on the go. She can visit friends, and do all the things she wants to do. She is not stuck at home afraid of going to hospital every day or second day.” 

Debbie St. John-de Wit, Seaway Valley Community Health Centre Executive Director, says it’s imperative to think locally with respect to health care. “It is a rural access issue and it is also an equity issue,” she says. “Rural populations deserve to have these programs as well as anyone else. We have the local expertise and we certainly have the demand, and it is wonderful that the LHIN has provided the funds that can supply the service locally.”

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More information

  • Public - Additional Resources in the Region

Champlain Lung Health Program

Champlain LHIN: Diabetes and Chronic Conditions

  • Journalists

Champlain LHIN Media Line
Toll-free 1.866.902.5446 x 3250

  • Health Service Providers

Leah Bartlett
Senior Integration Specialist, Champlain LHIN
Toll-Free: 1.866.902.5446 x 3232