Integration strategy opening doors and conversations, says CEO
Volunteers still the hospital's eyes and ears on the ground
|By Alex Coop - Staff Writer | September 23, 2016|
With the amalgamation of Haliburton Highlands Health Services (HHHS) and Community Care Haliburton County in the rear-view mirror, Community Support Services director Stephanie MacLaren says it’s time to engage with the community to help improve access to quality care, and address issues like poverty.
“We’re seeing poverty and isolation coming into the healthcare conversation, before it was typically a conversation about social services,” MacLaren - who was officially named the permanent director Tuesday after working as the interim director since May – said.
According to the county’s poverty reduction strategy, 271 households in the county access food banks on a monthly basis.
Thirty per cent of people from those households are children.
“We want to make sure we are truly accessing the most vulnerable,” MacLaren said.
That will be easier to do, she said, now that the hospital’s integration strategy with Community Health Services has been ratified.
The idea behind the merger came from Ontario’s Local Health Integration Network, Central East branch, back in 2012.
It suggested HHHS create one umbrella that would contain all of the hospital’s community partners.
The plan has been put to action across multiple hospitals across the province, and the streamlined flow of information from one end of the corporate chain to the other, will make accessing Haliburton’s support services a lot easier, MacLaren said.
It will also help those same services coordinate amongst each other to help patients get the best support system possible, even after they are discharged from the hospital, says HHHS CEO Carolyn Plummer.
“It’s challenging to coordinate with everyone across the many services, but now we have everyone around the table, in the same room, having these conversations,” she said.
“The information flow and coordination between departments has improved,” MacLaren added.
But there is still room to grow, she says, specifically when it comes to accessing patient records seamlessly across all departments.
“We have all these services doing fantastic work, but not necessarily knowing what each one was doing. So we need to create a system that a patient or client can flow through.”
Plummer said the tangled web of information has been confusing for staff members as well, which is why a recently announced pilot project for rural health hubs is so attractive.
Announced by the Ontario government in early August, the $2.5 million in funding targets remote areas of the province and will help pay for health hubs that will “support health system transformation and improve care, access and outcomes for patients” says a press release from the province.
It’s no accident that Haliburton was awarded one of the health hubs, Plummer says.
“I know that the integration that we’ve undergone to date and what we’ve accomplished demonstrates our potential, and that was a huge factor in the decision to award us a pilot.”
There will be extensive community engagement regarding the health hubs, which Plummer says will begin in the coming months.
October a big month for community support
Integration strategies and other changes behind the scenes aren’t overshadowing the importance of the hospital’s volunteers, MacLaren says.
“They continue to help us keep a pulse on the community.”
There are more than 400 volunteers donating their time across all health services in Haliburton.
MacLaren would like to see that number grow during the Ontario Community Support Association’s (OCNA) Community Support Month, which starts Oct. 1.
Community support services across the province will celebrate the various programs they offer, while educating people about them as well.
MacLaren says Haliburton has a lot to be proud of.
“All of our programs have met or exceeded expectations, and we want to emphasize that,” she said.
“[Community Support Services] has become more robust since it joined HHHS,” MacLaren added, pointing to the new services they inherited after the merger, such as its adult day programs and palliative care systems.
“Those programs are invested in keeping people out of the hospital,” she said. “And we want to share their stories about how our programs have changed their lives.”
ALEX COOP is a reporter for The Highlander.