Dear Northerners,

For those of us in health care, not only does April bring (fingers crossed) spring weather but also the start of a new fiscal year.

So for me, this is a time to reflect on our progress over the past 12 months.

It’s been really encouraging to meet so many great people over the past year who are making a difference across our region, for example our North East LHIN Healthy Change Champions: Shana Calixte and Marion Quigley and their efforts to improve access for people with mental health and substance abuse issues in Sudbury; Gil Contant who is working with assisted living clients in Elliot Lake; Alice Radley who provides independence for seniors and people with physical challenges in North Bay; Barbara Harten and her work to bring partners together to improve the lives of seniors in Thessalon; Shalene Bonhomme and her dedication to her clients as a PSW; Lynne Cheliak and her work helping women and ensuring that Francophones can access services in the Temiskaming area; Paula Fields who is bringing providers together on Manitoulin Island; and Heather Cranney with her passion and her work with the Red Cross in First Nation communities. 

We also have exceptional staff here at the LHIN who are working to create a better system of care … like our Jennifers!!! We have a Jennifer MacKinnon who is engaging primary care providers to make sure every Northerner has a doctor or a nurse practitioner; a Jennifer Michaud who works with Dr. Varghese ensuring there are no gaps in diabetes management and education across the region; a Jennifer Wallenius who is bringing together health providers in the Algoma area; and a Jennifer Mckenzie who has been crafting a new model of care for rural areas in the North East with her co-workers. And there are just the Jennifers on staff!! I won’t get into our other dedicated Northerners working towards system transformation but I invite you to visit our website and meet them.

This past year I was particularly moved by all the patients and families who shared their stories with us in an effort to help build a more patient centered system. People like Grace Fox, Rena Clark, Rita O’Link, Elizabeth Lamirande, and Granny Wabano.

And certainly a huge thank you to all the physicians like Dr. Derek Manchuk and nurse practitioners like Barb Kiely and other health providers for your wise counsel particularly in the clinical discussions we are having.

A couple of our successes that come to mind… thanks to the help of patients and our partners include:

  • Managing Chronic Conditions From Home: Thanks to Telehomecare, more than 700 Northerners with heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are developing the confidence to self-manage, reducing visits to the ED and hospitalizations. Telehomecare’s remote sensing equipment provided by OTN and the North East CCAC’s nursing coaches are helping patients at home get a better handle on their chronic conditions.
  • Helping Caregivers and Older Adults with Dementia: Through the North East Behavioural Supports Ontario (BSO) we’ve invested in 66 new workers, with specialist training, to help these older adults and their families where ever they may be – in home, a hospital, or in a long-term care. As well, we’ve leveraged behavioural support training for another 5,000 practitioners already working in the field.
  • Increasing access and shortening wait times: Our Joint Assessment Centres have determined that about 65% of Northerners referred for hip or knee surgery didn't need it and would benefit from other forms of care, helping people best suited for surgery get to the next available surgeon faster. Altogether 10,000 Northerners have benefited from hip and knee assessments done by advanced practice physiotherapists since we introduced these centres three years ago.
  • Smoothing the Transition Home from Hospital: With PATH (Priority Assistance to Transition Home) high risk seniors are  brought home by care workers who ensure they have the medications they need, a meal and food in place, and that other caregivers are on the way, if need be. PATH programs exist in our major urban centres and are spreading to smaller communities like Parry Sound and Espanola.
  • Partnering for People in Crisis: A new Community Crisis Model in Sudbury’s downtown core has helped  more people get crisis help in a calm environment away from the hospital’s busy emergency department. This past year, the North East LHIN has been working with partners in North Bay to create a crisis model for the Nipissing area as well.

Yes it’s been a busy 12 months! And as we move forward, I invite every Northerner to be part of the conversation. As you have heard me say in the past, the North East LHIN is your LHIN. We live in an age where advances in surgical techniques, drugs, and technology require us to rethink the delivering of health care services. I look forward to hearing from you.