St. Paul’s hospital pushes for change in approach to addiction treatment
published on August 22, 2018 by Perrin Grauer in The Star
VANCOUVER—Physicians and staff at Vancouver’s century-old St. Paul’s hospital are pushing for changes in how addiction is understood, both in the medical community and in the city writ large.
Seonaid Nolan, medical director for the addiction program at St. Paul’s, said her views on how hospital care could be expanded took shape during her residency at the hospital in 2013.
“We were doing a really good job of treating (our patients’) medical complications … but I felt like there was an overarching lack of attention being given to why a lot of these patients were being brought to hospital,” Nolan said in an interview. “And a lot of the time that stemmed from underlying substance use and addiction.”
As a practising physician, it was possible to make a difference with individual patients, explained Nolan. But more systemic changes — changes on the level of policy and to the health-care system as a whole — become possible when physicians engage in addictions research, she said.
Nolan is putting that strategy into action through the Outcomes for Patients Assessed for Addiction Care (OPAC) study, currently being run through St. Paul’s. The study, which launched in January, collects data from participants — including their medical history, socioeconomic background, substance use and previous experience in-hospital — and tracks their interactions with the health-care system over a five-year period. This data is collected passively, with the permission of participants, so they needn’t repeatedly check in with a researcher after their initial interview.