November 1, 2010

Dear Northerners,

Despite winter’s approach, I’ve continued to witness the warmth of fellow Northerners as I travel across the region. 

In Northeastern Ontario, when someone is sick, friends come together to help. When one of our communities face an issue, neighbours rally to offer support.

That Northern show of concern and support is expressed throughout the summary of proceedings of the North East LHIN’s Rural Health Summit which brought our 26 hospitals together in Sault Ste. Marie in September. Released last week, the proceedings, Integrating Innovative Ideas: Small Rural Hospital Summit, details a call to action on how to strengthen rural health care across our region. The North East LHIN will continue to work in collaboration with our 22 rural hospitals and four large HUB hospitals as we consider the 100 ideas that were brought forward and look at ways to provide the care people need across Northeastern Ontario. Some of the ideas have already been implemented, some are underway, many have yet to be tackled. But, one thing is certain, there is a momentum taking place that is sure to result in positive change.

Some of Northeastern Ontario’s home-grown health care innovations will  be on display November 10 in Toronto at the Celebrating Innovations in Health Care Expo 2010. Six organizations will be recognized for various programs including:  Little Current’s Noojmowin Teg Health Access Centre; Northeast Mental Health Centre; Timmins and District Hospital;Timiskaming Home Support/Soutien à domicile; Parry Sounds', The Friends; and the North East LHIN as we showcase how the mind, body, spirit and emotion contribute equally to the health and well-being of people and feature the integration of Weeneebayko Area Health Authority (WAHA).

This month, my staff, our board directors and I will continue with our engagement efforts as we meet with people and providers across the North East. Hearst, Kapuskasing, Englehart, Smooth Rock Falls, and Haileybury are some of the communities we will spend time in. When I go to communities, my focus is on health care, but I am also aware that every aspect of the community has an impact on the conversation. Health care is influenced greatly by more than the system itself. There are many determinants of health such as demographics, socio-economic realities, population growth or decline. This is a large part of my message – that health care is really about community and to build a strong system we need to work together, talk about solutions, and keep the momentum for change moving in the right direction.

I look forward to meeting many of you during these sessions, and I thank you for taking the time to offer comments on this blog. I read them all and am thrilled that last month, more than 220 people took the time to visit!

Finally, last week I received a very thoughtful letter from a fellow Northerner who talked about her personal experience with the system – both the good and the not so good. She concludes that we need to work better together and suggests we take the 'broken window' approach that was used in New York to drive crime down, “If you don’t fix the small things, an attitude of not caring and a feeling of powerlessness seep into the system/community and those attitudes attract bigger problems. Conversely, the theory suggests, and New York’s results arguably corroborate, that fixing the small things promotes a culture of caring and breeds success. Why not try this ‘broken window’ approach to our community’s health care problems? We may not be able to solve the entire health care system, but we just might be able to lead the way if we collaborate to take small, quick steps to repair some of the cracks here at home. Can it hurt to try?”

I agree with my fellow Northerner. As we peer through the 'broken windows' of health care in the North East, let’s work together as a community and as health service providers to not only fix the broken window, but maybe even add a little stained glass.


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