January 10, 2011

Dear Northerners,

I hope 2010 finished on a positive note and that 2011 is off to a great start. 

Last year, our work and conversations with many of you helped to strengthen our local health care system so that it best reflects who we are as Northerners. In 2011, our engagement efforts will continue in this regard and we will focus on a number of areas, including:

  • Helping to bring down our high rates of ALC patients in hospital beds – people who have finished their acute care episode but await placement within the community.
  • Implementing our Home First Strategy in partnership with the North East Community Care Access Centre. Home First is all about providing a patient with the right care so that they can be discharged from the hospital and return home with care support.
  • Working with providers to implement the legislative changes of the Excellent Care for All Act – legislation that puts patients first by improving the quality of a patient's experience.
  • Working with our 26 hospitals to help them become more senior friendly and able to meet the needs of frail elderly patients.
  • Exploring ways to integrate and work together with all partners in the health care system – community health centres, community support agencies, long-term care homes, mental health and addiction agencies, and others. 
  • Working to reduce emergency room visits through more falls prevention programs, rehabilitation and complex continuing care programs, and others.

One of the strongest messages in our 2010 engagement efforts was helping Northerners better understand our health care budget.NE LHIN Budget The North East LHIN’s annual budget of $1.2 billion is flowed directly to more than 200 health service providers. We know that the size of our pie is not going to increase substantially any time soon. So the conversation about how we use our health care dollars needs to continue. 

I’d like to take a moment and  focus on the work of our small rural communities. Just before the holidays, the province released its Rural and Northern Health Care Panel Report. In July 2009, a panel was struck under the leadership of former Kirkland Lake and District General Hospital CEO Hal Fjeldsted to create a vision for ensuring access to quality care in rural and Northern communities. The work of the panel is important. We at the North East LHIN have been following its progress given that 22 of our 26 hospitals serve small rural communities. Later this month, the province will hold public round table discussions and on-line consultations to gather feedback on the report. I encourage you to participate and have your voice heard (more details on these engagements will be sent out shortly).

Last September, the North East LHIN hosted a Rural Health Care Summit in Sault Ste. Marie and brought more than 100 senior health care leaders together to talk about integration opportunities and how to work together better. The Summit’s proceedings, Integrating Innovative Ideas: Small Rural Hospital Summit are actively being implemented either by our organization, by our 22 small rural hospitals, by our four large HUB hospitals, or by the North East Community Care Access Centre. I encourage you to download the report and read about the opportunities for positive change that are before us.

There are many reasons to be proud of the work of our small rural hospitals.Mattawa General Hospital staff:  from left to right: Diane McGee, Director of Support Services, Dr. Clint Redhead, Physician, Nancy Boody, Director of Patient Care and Guy Chartrand, CEO. Late in 2010, I visited Mattawa General Hospital and was most impressed with the collaborative work going on both within the hospital and with the Town of Mattawa. CEO Guy Chartrand, a number of his Board members, the Mayor of Mattawa, Reeves from surrounding townships, and hospital physicians openly shared their vision for the future of an inclusive and patient-focused approach to health care for the citizens of Mattawa and the entire district. Mattawa General Hospital definitely has a vision and it goes well beyond their hospital doors.

On December 21, we celebrated with the West Nipissing General Hospital in Sturgeon Falls and announced ten additional long-term care beds. Personal Support Worker Lyne Barbin and former long-term care resident Mme Rollande Ducharme sit with Cynthia Desormier, West Nipissing General Hospital CEOAs was aptly stated by CEO Cynthia Désormiers, who also chairs the Nipissing ALC Community Partnership, “The beds will alleviate emergency room pressures and improve access for the local aging population. Keeping our seniors close to home is what we want. This is good news for the entire district.”

Small rural hospitals in communities like Mattawa and Sturgeon Falls are not just a place to treat sick people; they play a vital role in offering a wide range of services that lead to a healthier population, not just within their community, but right across the district. This vision of working together to create a healthier system is exactly what we need in Northeastern Ontario. As has been demonstrated by Guy and Cynthia, it doesn’t matter which door a patient goes through to receive care. What matters is that they get the care they need when they need it, and as close to where they live as possible.

In December, I also met with five of our region's Community Health Centres (CHC). We discussed their important role in meeting the health care needs of Francophones and our LHIN's priorities for French language services in primary care. Thank you to Denis Constantineau, Executive Director of Sudbury CHC for hosting the meeting. In the next several months I will meet with our newest CHC, the Misiway Milopemahtesewin CHC in Timmins.

I will continue to meet with the CEOs of our small rural hospitals, as well as our HUB hospitals, long-term care homes, community health centres, mental health and addiction agencies and community support service agencies. For the first time ever, we are charting a course to work together and keep the vision of a healthier Northeastern Ontario front and centre of everything that we do. 

Very soon, we will be celebrating the opening of two new hospitals – North Bay Regional Health Centre later this month and Sault Area Hospital in March. Patients and visitors alike will be awestruck with the people-focused architecture and energy that went into each of these two new facilities.

As we set out on a new year, let’s celebrate our local health care successes and continue to work together to build a system that is strong, patient-focussed, and reflects who we are as Northerners.   

Louise Paquette


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