Communications and Engagement

The Rural Site Visits project allows us to engage with providers, patients and other stakeholders in the context of their specific rural community

The demand for Communication toolssupports, and pathways grew phenomenally during 2019-20 with the opening of RCCbc’s Interior Node, and the launch of several new projects — including the RCME Community Program, the Rural Obstetrics and Maternity Sustainability Program (ROAM-SP), and Real-Time Virtual Support Pathways. In addition, communications support was provided to ongoing RCCbc programs such as the Rural Site Visits project, the Rural Surgical and Obstetrics Networks (RSON) project, and UBC Rural CPD‘s Coaching and Mentorship (CAMP) program. Assistance and advice were also given to rural community groups such as the BC Rural Health Network (BCRHN) and the BC Rural Centre. RCCbc continues to engage with a growing number of interested and engaged rural healthcare stakeholders provincially, nationally, and internationally, and is now large enough that we will soon need to explore how we can keep all of our rural leads informed on the latest internal conversations while continuing to reach out to front line rural healthcare providers, administrators, and patients to see how we can best support local and community needs through our Rural Site Visitors project (see below), as well as through other initiatives such as the RSON project and ROAM-SP program. This growth is exciting – the culmination of years of relationship-building, trust, and collective work from leads Dr. Stuart Johnston and Communications Manager Sharon Mah. 

During the 2019-20 year, the Communications sector produced new print and web support materials for its new initiatives while continuing to manage content development for its eNewsletter, web site, and social media accounts. We also continued to engage our audiences in-person at events such as the SRPC Rural and Remote Medical Course in Halifax, at our own 2019 BC Rural Health Conference in Nanaimo, and at events such as Famiily Medicine Forum and the Quality Forum. We developed a Facebook presence in 2019 to support the launch of a BC Rural Residents Network Facebook page to bolster the efforts of Drs. James Card, Kyle Ng, and Carl Whiteside in creating a virtual home for UBC rural medicine interested trainees. We also continue to build out relationships with other rural healthcare organizations at a communications level to increase our reach out to rural healthcare audiences, but also to introduce new resources and supports to our existing rural providers. This healthcare communications network proved to be useful, especially at the end of March 2020 when RCCbc rapidly deployed free healthcare grade Zoom licences and other Real Time Virtual Support pathways for rural physicians dealing with the impacts of Covid-19 in their office practices, local hospitals, and local communities.  

 The Communications sector manages the annual BC Rural Health Care Awards. Each year, we recognize the extraordinary work of a BC rural community in fostering sustainable local healthcare services, a Lifetime Achievement award for a rural physician who has served a minimum of 15 years in rural BC, and a ‘themed’ award which changes each year.

The theme for 2019 recognized those groups that provide “Team-based Virtual Care in Rural Family Practice.” RCCbc wanted to recognize rural healthcare teams that looked for innovative ways to bridge the literal distance between providers and patients living in Rural BC. 

Rural BC Community – Hope, BC

Team-based Virtual Care in Rural Family Practice – no nominations submitted  

Lifetime Achievement Awards – Dr. Robert Calder; Dr. Glen Fedor; Dr. Daphne Hart; Dr. Stu Iglesias 

The 2019 BC Rural Health Award Recipients with RCCbc Director, Stuart Johnston (far right)

These recipients were honoured at a ceremony on May 24, 2019 at the BC Rural Health Conference in Nanaimo. Congratulations to all honourees, and thank you for your dedicated work and service to rural BC. 

Read more about the 2019 BC Rural Health Award Recipients in RCCbc’s eNews. 


In November 2019, the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) and RCCbc signed a Memorandum of Understanding committing to work collaboratively to improve health outcomes for BC’s First Nations and non-First Nations populations living in rural and remote communities. 

The initial work of FNHA and RCCbc intended to focus on three areas: 

  • guiding and supporting the ongoing development of primary care networks to include a rural health context as well as reflect the vision and interests of BC’s First Nations communities and citizens; 
  • planning, designing and implementing First Nations-led primary health care initiatives; and, 
  • developing, designing and implementing a collaborative centre of excellence in virtual care. 

Gift exchange during the MOU signing ceremony. Photo: Bree Orser Photography

The announcement for the MOU noted that both “FNHA and RCCbc are committing to working towards redesigning the health system to ‘ensure everyone has access to the care they need, no matter where they live.’ This partnership is a foundational towards achieving the shared goal of improving equity of health care access and outcome for both First Nations and non-First Nations citizens living in rural and remote BC communities.” 

The Partnership Pentgram Plus work spurred both FNHA and RCCbc, along with Providence Health to formalize the launch of the Collaborative Centre for Virtual Care with support from Provincial Health Services Authority. Through the foundational relationships established through the Collaborative Centre, along with the support of BC Medicine Network and UBC’s Department of Emergency Medicine, both FNHA and RCCbc were able to rapidly deploy virtual care resources, in light of the arrival of Covid-19, such as FNHA’s First Nations Virtual Doctor of the Day (FNVDoD) program — to provide primary care support, facilitate patient attachment, and deliver longitudinal care where possible. FNVDoD provides access to a doctor for First Nations people and their families who do not have a provider or have had their access to care interrupted.   

In addition to effectively deploying virtual care supports, the FNHA-RCCbc partnership significantly contributed to the new collaborative framework announced by the BC government on April 20, 2020. Through the advocacy of FNHA, Northern Health, and RCCbc’s Rural Patient Transfer and Transport Working Group, First Nations, rural and remote BC communities received a commitment from the Ministry of Health to improve access to healthcare and timely transport during the pandemic, and into the future.  

The MOU is a formalization of the relationship between FNHA and RCCbc that has slowly built up over time, as committed to by the people and the organizations. Both groups are continuing to collaborate during the pandemic, focusing on mobilizing and structuring available relationships and resources to strengthen healthcare service delivery in First Nations, rural and remote BC communities. 

As part of its Partnership Pentagram Plus engagement work stemming from the January 2019 Provincial Health Care Partners Symposium, RCCbc has been funded by the BC Academic Health Sciences Network (BCAHSN) to create the Rural Health Learning Collaborative (RHLC), which aims to advance social accountability in the health system through development of the Partnership Pentagram Plus for rural BC. The Collaborative aims to engage the less connected or marginalized groups of Rural Citizens, Providers and Linked Sectors through face-to-face and virtual meetings. These groups are focusing on four specific themes at this time: team-based care, virtually supported care, transport (access to care), and culturally safe care. 

The RHLC supports structures that build social accountability into health system improvement, through the development of the relationships between partner groups within the system. An important component of this is assisting rural physicians and their teams in developing research knowledge and capacity. By utilizing its newly appointed scientific co-directors, Drs. Dee Taylor and Nelly Oelke (see below), to strengthen BC’s rural research network, RCCbc is also leverage existing infrastructure and resources to further the work of the RHLC. 


RHLC activity centers around the working groups being co-led by Rural Citizen, Provider, or Linked Sector organizations. Each group is supported in their work by RCCbc leads – Dr. Ray Markham, RHLC Medical Director; Kim Williams, Networks Director – along with Drs. Dee Taylor and Nelly Oelke, Scientific Co-Directors and Paul Kendal, Networks Coordinator.  

Working Groups 

Linked Sectors Group – The Linked Sectors Group is co-led by the BC Rural Centre and the Institute for Health System Transformation & Sustainability (IHSTS). The group’s perspectives (membership) were recruited through January, 2020, with an initial meeting held in Vancouver on January 28, 2020. At present this group includes 14 people providing perspectives from various industry and non-profit organizations. 

Providers Group – The Providers Group is co-led by RCCbc and the Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC (NNPBC). An interprofessional team of perspectives (members) of the group were recruited, and an initial meeting was planned for March 24, 2020. This meeting was cancelled due to the Covid-19 crisis, as the perspectives of the group overwhelmingly felt their priority was patient care at that time. This meeting will be rescheduled in the first quarter of 2020/21.  

Rural Citizens Group – Discussion on partnering to co-lead the Group were held between the BC Rural Health Network and the BC Patient Safety and Quality Council. Perspectives (membership) for the group were recruited, aiming to consist of 15 perspectives in total: five recruited by the BC Rural Health Network, five by the Patient Voices Network of BCPSQC, and five Indigenous perspectives. The initial March 30, 2020 meeting of this group was held virtually due to the Covid-19 crisis.  

Communications Plan – The BC Rural Centre (BCRC) was engaged to draft a Communications Plan for the RHLC. BCRC undertook a review of previous consultation processes on rural health care delivery, analyzed existing communications structures and websites for rural health care organizations, and issued a survey and conducted interviews to collect feedback from rural health providers and those who work with rural health delivery partner organizations. A draft plan was submitted in March, 2020. Work to refine the plan will continue into 2020/2021.  

Scientific Directors 

Scientific Co-Directors, Drs. Dee Taylor and Nelly Oelke, joined RCCbc in Spring 2020 and will be developing a Rural Research Strategy for BC to support the work of the Collaborative and rural providers around BC. Additionally, Dr Taylor will do focused work on Virtual Care, while Dr. Oelke will work on Rural Transport. They have begun discussions with key partners and stakeholders to develop this work, and are being integrated into RCCbc’s existing research networks where they will provide important provincial leadership for the practitioner research community.  

The Rural Site Visits project has grown and scaled up substantially during its third year. In February 2020, the Rural Site Visits team reached a milestone, marking the halfway point of completion of the project as teams completed the 101th visit out of the 201 RSA communities! The Rural Site Visits project was able to complete an additional five site visits, for a total of 106 communities visited, before the restrictions on non-essential travel due to Covid-19 became active.   

During 2019-20, the project team visited 57 RSA communities and hosted approximately 360 meetings with partner groups. Eight new Site Visitors – Drs. Granger Avery, Danette Dawkin, Nicole Ebert, Bruce Hobson, Dana Hubler, Diana KellandBlair StanleyRobert Woollard, and Carl Whiteside were recruited and trained by Dr. Stuart Johnston and Project Coordinator Krystal Wong in the use of the Appreciative Inquiry approach to facilitate community meetings. There are now a total of 20 Site Visitors supporting the project. Erika Belanger continues to be the Site Visits Research Data Analysist alongside Research Programs Assistant Anne Lesack who assists in the analysis of the project. Five additional Admin Leads – RCCbc staff members Jordan ChristmasBree Loeffler, Kassia Skolski, Anne, and Erika – help coordinate and support planning of individual visits.  Some visits included guests from HealthMatch BC, Locums for Rural BC, the Ministry of Health, and Health Authority Medical Directors. The addition of these guests to the project have allowed these healthcare leaders to gain important and insightful experiences about health care service delivery in the rural BC context, and have conversely allowed community members to bring their messages and demonstrate their local expertise to regional and provincial leaders.  

There is increased interest in the Rural Site Visits project from various partners, including First Nations Health Authority (FNHA), UBC Continuing Professional development, (UBC CPD) and the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC). FNHA and the project Admin Leads collaborated to engage Indigenous communities in a more sustainable way, thus reducing ‘engagement burnout’ on the part of the community. UBC CPD requested community feedback about its specific programs, which the project team was able to collect via community participant feedback. Dr. Peter Lee, a member of the Society of Rural Physician of Canada’s (SRPC) Rural Road Map Implementation Committee (RRMIC) requested that the Rural Site Visitors help disseminate the Rural Road Map recommendations document to help raise awareness and improve equitable access to safe, quality health care closer to home for rural Canadians. 

This year, Krystal, Erika, and Dr. Johnston linked up internally with RCCbc’s TRC Working Group — led by Dr. Terri Aldred – to help incorporate deeper cultural awareness and cultural safety into all areas of the project. This collaboration has improved engagement with Indigenous partners and shaped a clearer course for receiving more meaningful feedback from Indigenous rural and remote communities during site visits.  

A new area of focus for the project team is the construction of Rural Site Visits website which will integrate an online collection of local innovations that were identified through the Rural Site Visits project. This will enable rural communities to directly connect to each other so they can access and benefit from exploring a large pool of existing solutions and ideas that have already been created, discussed, and/or implemented. This resource is anticipated to launch in summer 2020.  

If you would like to learn more about the Rural Site Visits project, you may read the Community Feedback Reports sent back to participating communities which highlights top themes of conversations during the site visits, project updates and shared community innovations.