What a year it’s been for the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network (HNHB LHIN) and all LHINs across Ontario. As you may remember, we went through a big change from being simply the local health care planner, funder and integrater to taking on responsibility for the coordination of home and community care – formerly the role of Community Care Access Centres (CCACs). Locally, this meant HNHB LHIN became the provider responsible for delivering patient-centred care – what an enormous privilege!
The HNHB LHIN transition took place on May 10, 2017 and in our first year as a health care operator, we have learned about the natural synergies across our health care system and the advantage of being involved in hands-on care. The seamless flow from planning, funding and integrating through to patient care delivery continues to prompt the LHIN to do everything possible to create exceptional patient experience while delivering high quality patient-centred care.
As I look back to when our LHIN took on home and community care coordination and delivery, one of the main standouts is the impact the transfer of home and community care service had, not only on the board, leadership team and staff, but the impact or hopefully, the lack of impact experienced by the people we serve. Together with our health system partners, we continued to deliver care and support without interruption. Through HNHB LHIN, did you know that in 2017-18:
89,800+ unique people received care and services
5,406,900+ patient visits were made by contracted service providers
10,600+ people received health support and services in schools
16,000+ people received care in 11 HNHB LHIN Nursing Care Centres
3,500+ people received assistance for placement in long-term care homes
4,700+ people received hospice palliative/end-of-life care.
I’m also reminded that every staff person at HNHB LHIN had to start thinking about our local health care system very differently. A big change for the majority of our employees was becoming part of a Crown agency of the Government of Ontario. They learned quickly that, as public servants, there are certain things we must do in specific ways while being mindful of the fact that we are ultimately accountable to the people who live in our communities and also to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care. One seemingly small example would be purchasing or ‘procurement.’ As LHINs we must use Vendors of Record when procuring goods and services – this was a new process for the legacy CCAC staff. Imagine for a moment you had conducted your business one way with particular vendors for close to 20 years and literally, overnight, you had to change that process – that’s an enormous change for a large number of staff.
During the early days following transition, one of the first exercises the leadership team worked on with our Board of Directors was the development of our change vision statement: “Imagine what we can achieve together…when we care, listen and act.” By embracing this change vision, I am proud to share that team HNHB LHIN has been nothing short of fantastic. They continue to rise each day to meet new challenges and seize new opportunities by stepping forward and doing their best to clasp this new reality, taking very seriously their role within the local health care system. They remain focused solely on putting patients first and, in the process, making health care access and delivery better for the people we serve. While we are still at the very beginning of bringing together the continuum of care for many patients and families, the reason we come to work every day is to serve the people in our communities.
As set out in our mandate and as included in the Patients First Act, the LHIN is ensuring patients’ voices are at the centre of health care planning through our Patient and Family Advisory Committee (PFAC). A rigorous recruitment process during the summer of 2017 brought together 13 dynamic individuals from across our LHIN who share their incredible stories and give of their time by lending their experience and expertise related to the health care system.
As LHIN staff we need to hear and think about what our PFAC members are saying, and keep reminding ourselves:“The only reason we are here is because of you. Our role would have no relevance without people who need care and support. You are the people we serve.”
PFAC members are now focused on developing their work plan that will outline the priorities they want to address over the coming years, and how they can go beyond advising LHIN staff by providing counsel to our Board in order to further inform the direction the LHIN needs to be headed. I’d encourage you to visit our website by clicking here, for more information about our PFAC.
This past year, the need for mental health and addictions services has continued to grow and for our LHIN, addressing this growing need has been a major priority. We have made strides funding programs and enhancing services for our residents facing mental health and addictions challenges. This includes the PHAST program in Burlington, expanding crisis and addiction services in Brant, and expanding community health programs in Hamilton to include mental health.
We also remain focused on the opioid crisis in our communities. We have continued to provide funding and resources to develop public education campaigns for at-risk groups, exploring the possibility of harm-reduction strategies such as the introduction of supervised injection sites in select communities and making Nalaxone – the anti-overdose treatment – available to first-responders, pharmacies and in community settings to opioid users and their loved ones.
The LHIN’s six sub-regions are established and are the focal point for planning, funding and integrating the health care system. At the sub-region level, we’re working with local health and social services providers on innovative ways to improve the well-being of communities, neighbourhoods and individuals. With input from patients, LHIN funded and non-LHIN funded partners, Anchor Tables were formed in each sub-region to:
Assess local population health needs, patient access and wait times and the capacity of health providers to serve the community
Identify and implement priorities for sub-region collaborative initiatives to address gaps and improve patient experience and outcomes
Create opportunities for providers and patients to interact and provide input into integrated health system plans
Engage Indigenous and Francophone populations to ensure diverse voices are heard across sub-regions.
I’m pleased as well with the continuation of our Heroes in the Home caregiver recognition program – an annual event honouring unpaid caregivers across the LHIN. hese individuals are devoted to supporting their loved ones in hospital, transitional and convalescent care, long-term care homes, at school, at home and in the community. These are the unsung – sometimes overlooked – heroes whose selfless efforts provide tens of thousands of hours of care and support to their loved ones. They provide people with the emotional, compassionate and spiritual side of caring that is so important to overall health and wellness, and reaches far beyond what the health care system can provide. I look forward to celebrating caregivers during our celebration events in the Fall.
While the LHIN has been focused on a lot of ongoing and new work, some of the highlights include addressing health equity and providing patients with better access to the care they need through primary care providers, specialists and mental health and addiction services. We continue to work on improving the health and wellness of the people who live in the HNHB region – particularly among Indigenous people and Francophone residents who account for a large number of people living within the HNHB region.
Our LHIN continues to identify new approaches to patient care that are culturally appropriate and delivered in safe settings where Indigenous and mainstream providers work together with shared knowledge and appreciation of the unique needs of Indigenous Peoples. Over the past year, we continued to advance existing action plans and initiatives while identifying new priority areas through the inclusion of First Nation communities, Indigenous health care providers and community members in planning and engagement activities.
We are improving the coordination and delivery of home and community care by working with our partners and providers to make sure every patient experiences seamless transitions from hospitals and other access points and to be in lockstep with our partners working together to provide care that wraps around the patient – patient-centred care that we all must keep front and centre in everything we do.
All of this is just the tip of the iceberg – I could probably write a book not just a blog – and we know there is still a lot of work to do. We continue to collaborate with our health system partners and as those collaborations continue to evolve to the next level, we will stay focused on the future, doing all we can today to prepare for a better health care system for tomorrow, with the end goal to ensure long-term sustainability of the health care system for our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
And while it’s important for us to stay focused on successful clinical outcomes for our patients, it’s imperative that we continue to do everything possible to dramatically improve the patient experience through quality, integration and value while imagining what we can do together when we care, listen and act.
Here’s to the future – I look forward to having you along with us for the journey!
If you or your organization would like to be featured in a future blog or share a patient story in one of our Voices in the Community videos you can reach us through our office, or if you’re on social media via our Twitter handle -@HNHB_LHINgage or on Facebook. Your feedback and questions are always welcome.