Open Access Research article

Visioning for secondary palliative care service hubs in rural communities: a qualitative case study from British Columbia's interior

Valorie A Crooks1*, Heather Castleden2, Nadine Schuurman1 and Neil Hanlon3

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Geography, Simon Fraser University, 8888 University Drive Burnaby, British Columbia, V5A 1S6, Canada

2 School of Resource & Environmental Studies, Dalhousie University, 6100 University Avenue, Halifax, Nova Scotia, B3H 3J5, Canada

3 Geography Program, University of Northern British Columbia, 3333 University Way, Prince George, British Columbia, V2N 4Z9, Canada

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BMC Palliative Care 2009, 8:15  doi:10.1186/1472-684X-8-15

Published: 9 October 2009



As the populations of many developed nations continue to age at rapid rates it is becoming increasingly important to enhance palliative care service delivery in order to meet anticipated demand. Rural areas face a number of challenges in doing this, and thus dedicated attention must be given to determining how to best enhance service delivery in ways that are sensitive to their particular needs. The purposes of this article are to determine the vision for establishing secondary palliative care service hubs (SPCH) in rural communities through undertaking a case study, and to ascertain the criteria that need to be considered when siting such hubs.


A rural region of British Columbia, Canada was selected for primary data collection, which took place over a five-month period in 2008. Formal and informal palliative care providers (n = 31) were interviewed. A purposeful recruitment strategy was used to maximize occupational and practice diversity. Interviews were conducted by phone using a semi-structured guide. Interviews were audio recorded and transcribed verbatim. Data were managed using NVivo8™ software and analyzed thematically, using investigator triangulation to strengthen interpretation.


Four themes emerged from the dataset: (1) main SPCH features; (2) determining a location; (3) value-added outcomes; and (4) key considerations. It was found that participants generally supported implementing a SPCH in the rural region of focus. Several consistent messages emerged, including that: (1) SPCHs must create opportunities for two-way information exchange between specialists and generalists and communities; (2) SPCHs should diffuse information and ideas throughout the region, thus serving as a locus for education and a means of enhancing training opportunities; and (3) hubs need not be physical sites in the community (e.g., an office in a hospice or hospital), but may be virtual or take other forms based upon local needs.


Visioning innovation in the provision of palliative care service in rural communities can be enhanced by consultation with local providers. Interviews are a means of determining local concerns and priorities. There was widespread support for SPCH coupled with some uncertainty about means of implementation.