Sandra Thompson is a researcher and an explorer. “That’s the best part of my job,” she says. “Every day I get to do detective work.”

CPAS Care Coordinators (l-r) Arden Moore, Marg Sanderson and Shelly Panchuk. Sandra Thompson, CPAS Manager (seated).

As a manager with Client/Patient Access Services (CPAS) Thompson oversees the day to day workings of the department. Colleagues Marg Sanderson, Arden Moore and Shelly Panchuk work as Client Care Coordinators in urban, rural and hospital settings. The team assists clients and their families in navigating an often complex and confusing health care system.

“Our job is to look at the big picture,” says Moore. “We see and assess the whole person – their physical, emotional and mental well-being, their environment, social interactions, financial means and family supports to see what services best suit their needs.”

CPAS serves as the central intake for mandated services in Saskatoon Health Region such as Home Care Nursing, Home Services, Meals on Wheels, Volunteer Services and Community Services which includes home-based physiotherapy, occupational therapy and social work in the community. CPAS coordinators also assess clients to determine eligibility for admission to long term care, including maintaining the waitlist, and access to respite care and community day programs. CPAS Coordinators in acute care also facilitate referrals to Home Care and transfers to acute care hospitals in other health regions.

While the majority of CPAS clients are senior citizens, anyone can request CPAS services. “Generally, clients or their family members call our central intake,” explains Sanderson. “However, when the client is already in hospital, sometimes we get referrals from other members of the health-care team such as therapists, nurses, or clinical coordinators.”

According to Moore, some clients find the health-care system overwhelming and complicated to understand. “The people we work with are often elderly and extraordinarily vulnerable,” says Moore. “They may have medical or mental health issues, they may or may not be in the position to afford services and sometimes family supports just aren’t there. It’s our job to help them figure it all out.”

Advocacy is a large part of a client care coordinator’s job says Panchuk. “At times clients need services that are not available to them because of service limits, cost, wait lists or other barriers,” she explains. In those cases a client care coordinator advocates to the service provider on behalf of the client and/or encourages the client to accept other referrals for service they may not have initially had in mind. “We are always aiming to find what is going to work best for the client given their situation and needs.”

“We are constantly providing education and information on what other options might be out there,” says Moore, adding that clients can also choose to refuse a service or assistance.
“We have to have their consent to do many things and if a client says no, then we have to respect their right to live at risk which can be really hard,” says Thompson.

“Emotionally this can be a hard job because you deal with a lot of people, both young and old with serious diagnoses, or terminal illnesses,” says Sanderson. “Those tougher situations can be hard to leave at work and not bring home with you. You really have to learn how to take care of yourself through it because it can truly affect you.”

Every client’s situation is different but Panchuk hopes that clients feel empowered by the services that CPAS provides. “I think we give clients some power, information, options and all those things that make you feel like you are in control because they’re usually losing that,” she says. “And seeing that empowerment is really rewarding.”

“Our clients are amazing and it is really fulfilling to see the outcomes of our detective work and know that we’ve been able to help someone by connecting them to the right service or advocating for them,” says Thompson. “It’s very satisfying.”