Workshop on pulmonary rehabilitation raises awareness

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Health-care professionals from across the country gathered at West Park Healthcare Centre in Toronto June 5-6 to learn about Pulmonary Rehabilitation and came away with valuable tools to better treat the respiratory ailments that affect a growing number of people in Canada.

The pilot workshop, organized by the Canadian COPD Alliance (CCA), was attended by over 60 healthcare professionals and provided information on everything from self management to getting a pulmonary rehabilitation program up and running.

Research conducted at West Park shows only 1-2 per cent of COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease) patients have access to pulmonary rehab programs, making gatherings like the CCA workshop all the more important.

“By bringing stakeholders together and discussing best practices and how to set up a program, we can improve the care of COPD,” says Paul Hernandez, CCA steering committee co-chair and a respirologist at Queen Elizabeth II Health Sciences Centre in Halifax.

Setting up a program involves many components, including the identification of key decision-makers, finances, marketing to primary care physicians, and much more.

For Kerry Gillard, Regional Director of Rehabilitation Services for Western Health Care Corporation in Corner Brook, Newfoundland, the workshop was very helpful. Her organization is proposing the creation of a pulmonary rehabilitation program. “I was comforted to know that we are on the right track and our vision is very much in line with the gold standard programs operating in other parts of the country,” Gillard said.

Gillard also valued the sessions focused on research. “I particularly enjoyed learning about some of the research that has been done in this area especially around self management and cost savings,” she added.

Other workshop sessions focused on assessment, exercise training, pharmacological management, maintenance of gains and pulmonary rehabilitation for diseases other than COPD.

CCA steering committee co-chair Dr.Dina Brooks is a researcher at West Park and the University of Toronto in the area of respiratory rehabilitation, and said the workshop helped address one of the biggest obstacles in the treatment of pulmonary diseases like COPD – awareness. “We increased the awareness of pulmonary rehabilitation,“ Dr. Brooks says. “It is the first step to increase the capacity of healthcare professionals to treat respiratory disease.”

The hope after this pilot workshop is to roll out workshops regionally in other parts of the country, using feedback from attendees at this gathering to refine and package the content, Hernandez says.

A continued focus on awareness is also high priority for the CCA. “Primary care physicians have a limited awareness of COPD. Even though awareness is improving, it doesn’t match the growing incidence of COPD in newly diagnosed groups – like women smokers,” Hernandez says.

For Hernandez personally, the workshop was most beneficial. “It renewed my enthusiasm for our work and the goal to establish more programs in Atlantic Canada,” Hernandez says.

With more workshops like this planned for the future, the likelihood of more pulmonary rehabilitation programs popping up across the country is closer to reality.