October 1, 2011

Dear Northerners,

October 1, 2010…reflections of my first six months on the job….

As the CEO of the North East LHIN, I’ve traveled thousands of kilometers across our region, attended dozens of meetings/events, and spoken at numerous gatherings.

Left to Right: Elizabeth Gorky and Louise Paquette, NE LHIN CEOWhat stands out the most for me are the caring Northerners I have met who recognize a need for change to meet the needs and expectations of an aging population. Some of these fellow Northerners are health care professionals, some are community members interested in health care, and some are citizens eager for an opportunity to be heard.

That’s what health care is about – people care.

I began as the CEO for the North East LHIN in the spring, and I’ve passed through the change in seasons with an ever-growing sense that we are on the right track. My role is to ensure that we stay on track, even when confronted with our region’s challenges – a shortage of health care professionals, vast geographic distances between people and medical services, budget deficiencies, and an expanding elderly demographic.

Much like the people I’ve met, the NE LHIN recognizes that there is room for improvement. Our job is to help make this happen; and in a timely fashion. Right now, Northerners wait too long for some medical services like knee replacements, MRI’s and CT scans.  We are working to make improvements and we have seen successes, like the establishment of the first-ever Northeastern Joint Assessment Centre, the near-completion of three new large hospitals, and more than 50 community-based programs to meet the needs of seniors and the frail elderly.

The challenges are plenty, but so too is the willingness of fellow Northerners to pitch in and help make a difference.  I have started to meet on a regular basis with our four large urban hospitals, 22 small rural hospitals, 41 long-term care homes, and  as well as speak to fellow Rotarians and concerned citizens at conferences, community meetings, AGMs, and luncheons.   Last week, I was in Sault Ste. Marie for our Rural Health Care Summit, where we brought the senior leadership of all 26 hospitals together to talk about integration opportunities and innovative solutions to delivering health care to the 40% of our population who live in rural communities. 

An invitation to speak and engage with people on the near and dear issue of health care is one I consider very carefully.  Working together, understanding our individual and collective needs and wants, and focusing on finding improvements, is a daily commitment of mine.

Over the past few months, NE LHIN efforts have been focused on bringing down our emergency room wait times and the number of alternate level of care patients (generally frail elderly) in our hospitals.  In July, we allocated funding to our four urban hospitals to help drive down their ER wait times.  In August, we confirmed our commitment to our multi-million dollar investment in the Aging at home strategy whose goal is to help provide supports to keep our seniors at home and out of hospitals.  And, we have completed negotiations with our 41 long-term care homes for their accountability agreements with the NE LHIN.

Today, October 1 is a milestone day for Northeastern Ontario, as we celebrate more than a decade of work by multiple partners to create the Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA) which will serve the health care needs of 11,500 people living along the Hudson and James Bay Coasts.  WAHA is the result of the voluntary integration of Ontario’s last federally-funded hospital (Weeneebayko General Hospital) and the provincial James Bay General Hospital. 

My first six months as your LHIN’s CEO has been rewarding and inspiring.  I look forward to working with you, discussing health care with you and hearing your thoughts on how your LHIN can build on the momentum of change.

Wishing you a wonderful Fall and Happy Thanksgiving….


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