As we transition into Fall, the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant LHIN is preparing for a change far more significant than the weather. This month, our Board Chair, Michael Shea, who first joined the LHIN Board in October 2010 and has been serving as Chair since June 2011, will be completing his tenure.
In recognition of his significant contributions to the LHIN and our regional health system, I thought I would take a different tack this month and post a Q&A where Mike talks about his experience as Board Chair.
HNHB LHIN: What are the biggest things that the board accomplished during your more than five years as Board Chair?
MS: That’s a really tough question, because there have been quite a few. One of the biggest accomplishments would be our strategic plan. There was an incredible amount of focus and work in 2011 that culminated in our 5-year Strategic Health System Plan, which went from 2012 and covers until 2017. You have to remember that was long before the Patients First initiative being led by Dr. Hoskins, our current Health Minister and was during a time when then Minister Deb Matthews was looking at making Ontario in her words “the healthiest place in North America to grow up and grow old.” I look back to Minister Matthews challenging us as a Board, and me in particular as Chair, to be bold; that it was our responsibility to change and to improve the health care system. So we were bold.
I remember our board was quite firm in its position that our strategic direction was to dramatically improve the patient experience through quality integration and value. The ministry’s take was that the word – dramatically – implied that the system was in some form of a crisis, and had asked us to consider removing it, but we chose to be bold and we retained that as part of our focus. The dedication and commitment of the LHIN CEO and LHIN staff have been outstanding and as a team, we should be very proud of the many accomplishments achieved – we have made a difference. What we started more than five years ago is the perfect segue into Patients First and the expanded role the LHIN is expected to play in delivering even better results – results that are patient-centred, focusing on quality, integration and value.
I am proud of the many bold decisions we have made and how we, a board comprised of individuals with varied career paths and significant diversity, have come together to work as a team. There have been some very difficult decisions – some that remain controversial to this day – that we’ve had to make. I take pride in knowing that before we reach a decision, there is always robust discussion, much background work by staff and presentations on current best practice that help us to form a consensus on what is best for the patient and the health care system.
HNHB LHIN: What was the most important thing you learned during your time on the Board?
MS: I came on the LHIN board with a very limited background or knowledge in health care, with the exception of being a patient or family member of a patient. The learning curve was incredible.
I had been a public servant for most of my adult life and was very experienced in board and committee work in both the private and public sector and thankfully that experience and the skills I had developed were transferable.
One of the most important things I learned was that, although learning the issues and understanding the industry is important prior to making health care decisions, being open, honest, and maintaining a focus on the goals and directions within our Strategic Plan are crucial. Making sure to always be focusing on improving the patient experience, allowed me to lead discussions at the board table to allow for informed decision-making.
Following each board meeting we do a self-assessment on the preparation, briefing materials, and individual board member performance at the meeting, including whether members feel they actually improved health care within the LHIN by the decisions they made – in almost every case, without fail over the past several years, the answer has been “yes”.
HNHB LHIN: Do you feel LHINs are appropriately recognized for the work that they do?
MS: No, I don’t think that they are. We as a LHIN do some phenomenal work and perhaps one of the things that we don’t do enough is brag about that and showcase some of our great successes and the truly innovative things we have been a part of.
A perfect example is the Mobile Crisis Rapid Response Teams that had fundamentally changed the way police are responding to people with mental health or addictions issues who are in crisis. That is a made in HNHB initiative that has not only been expanded across the LHIN, but is being replicated in other communities across the Province and even across the Country.
HNHB LHIN: Where do you feel the HNHB LHIN could be doing a better job?
MS: Beyond talking about the great work we are doing, I would say we could be doing a better job of community outreach. I know we try to do that, but I know that for the board and for the staff that can sometimes be a challenge. There are only so many opportunities and so many hours in a day, but I do feel that the public doesn’t always have a good idea of a lot of the work that is happening.
Prior to the last provincial election there was a lot of talk about the value of the LHIN and I think that has a lot to do with the fact that a lot of people don’t have a real understanding of the work that is being done.
HNHB LHIN: What are your thoughts on the direction and future of health care in Ontario?
MS: I absolutely believe that this government is heading in the right direction. I think putting patients first, and legislating changes that are going to enable LHINs to take on the role of community care and increasing our responsibilities with regard to public health and primary care is the only way to truly affect health care as a system. It puts the onus on the LHIN to ensure the health system focuses on improved outcomes for patients.
Locally we are in very good hands – the leadership within the HNHB LHIN is absolutely ready for the challenge. The results will be amazing and we are going to see dramatic improvement in the patient experience and an absolute improvement in quality, integration and value.
It’s been an honour to have been part of the journey and I wish nothing but success for those continuing on this quest at improving the health system by putting patients first.
HNHB LHIN: As you leave, what is your advice for the HNHB LHIN board and for the incoming Board Chair?
MS: For the Board, first of all I want to thank them for their dedication and commitment. Each board member brings something different to the table and they each have their own unique talents, perspectives, and past experience that add value and contributes to the success of the board as a whole. My only advice is to keep doing what you are doing. You are making a difference!
To the incoming Board Chair I would say, be grateful for the wonderful people you have on your board and the tremendous knowledge and commitment of the LHIN staff. Also, never forget that you are only one voice; just another member of a fortunate group who are tasked with an incredibly important job. Be humble and patient and don’t be afraid to ask for help, be true to the people of the communities we serve and be proud of the work that you do.
The next few years will see unprecedented change. This is not something to be afraid of. We have been waiting for this opportunity and need to take advantage of it and help transform the healthcare system into what it can be and make sure to never lose sight of the importance of focusing on the patient.
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. Your feedback and questions are always welcome.