“A Bridge Between the Hospital and the People:” Evaluation of Community Advisory Panels at St. Michael’s Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital Community Advisory Panels (CAPs) provide advice to the hospital and advocate for better care on behalf of vulnerable groups (e.g. women and children, people who are homeless/under-housed, Aboriginal Peoples, people experiencing mental illness). Each CAP is about 2/3 community members and 1/3 hospital staff. CAP chairs report directly to the Hospital Board of Directors.

Are CAPS an effective model for involving the community in health care decision-making? How can St. Michael’s Hospital CAPs improve? To find out, fellows in CRICH’s ACHIEVE Training Program interviewed and surveyed a range of hospital and community stakeholders.

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Findings

Participants believed:

  • CAPs are effective. Participants who were familiar with the CAPs strongly believed that CAPs worked well to serve the needs of their communities.
  • CAPs are productive. CAPs worked with the hospital and local agencies to develop many high-visibility initiatives, including an HIV psychiatry program, a methadone clinic and a portable health record and education tool for pregnant, homeless youth. CAPs also supported the formation of the Centre for Research on Inner City Health.
  • The biggest barrier to community participation was lack of information. Participants recommended “getting the word out” on how and why to get involved.
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