RHA CEOs and Trustees acknowledge challenges in health care system, have positive outlook thanks to continuous improvements led by staff and physicians
(Fredericton) Wednesday, December 14, 2022 - The trustees and Presidents and Chief Executive Officers of the two regional health authorities are reporting positively on the progress made in recent months across New Brunswick's health care system, in spite of significant challenges arising from the health care crisis and workforce shortages.
At a press conference held on Wednesday, December 14, 2022, in Fredericton, trustees Suzanne Johnston of Horizon Health Network and Gérald Richard of Vitalité Health Network highlighted efforts to move forward with the rollout of New Brunswick’s Health Plan, while Presidents and CEOs Margaret Melanson (interim, Horizon) and Dr. France Desrosiers (Vitalité) outlined initiatives and progress made in recent months.
Since their appointment as co-chairs of New Brunswick’s health plan implementation task force in November 2021 and as trustees of their respective health care organizations in July 2022, Suzanne Johnston and Gérald Richard have pursued their efforts to ensure the progress and implementation of the provincial plan.
“As a trustee, it continues to be my privilege to help improve health care in our province, while also celebrating our dedicated physicians, nurses and health care workers. Like other jurisdictions, we recognize New Brunswick is facing challenges that must be addressed with urgency. By working together with partner organizations and communities across the province, we will build on our progress and implement patient-focused solutions. I believe this small but powerful and innovative province has the talent, nimbleness, and innovative ideas to really make a difference in the health care system,” said Suzanne Johnston, Horizon Health Network's trustee.
“Our role as trustees is an exceptional and temporary one, but one that is very important. It will enable us to reimagine a form of governance that will ensure the continuity and stability of New Brunswick's health care services in both official languages. The health care system is facing major challenges. We must therefore embrace this opportunity to adopt not only a new structure, but also innovative and more effective practices that will better meet the needs of patients and communities,” said Gérald Richard.
As part of their work, the trustees provide the Health Minister with recommendations based on their observations and consultations on the ground.
The trustees are pleased with stakeholders' level of commitment and willingness to contribute to the improvement of the health care system.
Both trustees also emphasized the importance of fostering cooperation between the two boards, while respecting the linguistic, cultural, and operational specificities of each one.
Presidents and Chief Executive Officers' Update
Horizon Health Network
Ms. Melanson, Interim President & CEO, provided an update on the recent progress Horizon has made toward its four priorities to improve health care for all New Brunswickers, including access to emergency and surgical services; patient experience; patient flow; and recruitment and retention.
“We know our system is facing challenges, and we have a plan to improve health care for all New Brunswickers. Together with our dedicated team, partners and communities, we will deliver quality health care to those who need it”, she said. “We are working to ensure our people have the staffing resources and engaging workplace they need to provide quality health care for all New Brunswickers — and we are striving to be an employer of choice. We will engage our staff and communities on solutions and update them on our progress.”
Below is a summary of key initiatives within these priorities:
- Surgical program expansion – Thanks to Horizon’s recent $6.4-million investment in augmented surgical programs at community hospitals in Upper River Valley, Oromocto, Sackville and Sussex, 1,100 additional hip and knee patients will be served each year and patients will have improved access to orthopedic and cataract surgeries, endoscopy and other procedures. Horizon is also increasing operating room time on weekends and improving the patient experience by providing additional support to prepare for surgery and to return home.
- Additional ED support – Additional staff, known as patient monitors, have been introduced in waiting rooms to check vitals and monitor the well-being of people waiting in the ED. A pilot project has been launched to have social workers in regional EDs and so far, it has prevented more than 350 admissions. New patient flow centres are being established across the province to ensure patients are treated more quickly.
- Mental health care – In addition to providing timely mental health care through single-session therapy in all community mental health centres and addiction services centres, mental health social workers have been piloted in emergency departments.
- Patient flow projects – Several projects have been introduced to address patient flow, including the implementation of the SurgeCon tool, an ED tracker and visual management tool pilot. Horizon has also introduced a third physician assistant position at its Dr. Everett Chalmers Regional Hospital and will soon expand on its hospitalist program.
- Nurse recruitment initiatives – Horizon has hired 407 registered nurses (RNs), 278 licensed practical nurses (LPNs) and 445 personal care attendants (PCAs). Through new partnerships with Beal University in Bangor, Maine and Manipal Academy of Higher Education in India, Horizon will be hiring even more nurses. Horizon also recently launched a Student Nurse Advancement Pledge (SNAP), through which guaranteed employment is offered to all BScN/BN and Practical Nursing students and grads from any recognized college or university across Canada. Horizon recruiters also have plans to participate in upcoming local, national and international recruitment efforts.
- Staff retention efforts – Horizon is growing its recognition and appreciation programs and events for staff, including the Bravo! program, which shares stories about employees who go above and beyond. Upcoming health, wellness and safety initiatives include staff recharge rooms and wellness hubs.
- Reporting on progress – A new public dashboard on Horizon’s indicators on improvements is available on HorizonNB.ca.
Vitalité Health Network
Dr. Desrosiers highlighted initiatives and progress made in recent months with respect to the network's three priorities: patient experience, employee experience, and community engagement.
“In order to better meet the health care needs of patients and communities, it is important to rethink the way we deliver care, optimize stakeholder collaboration, and value the health professions. This is an objective we are committed to. In addition, a performance and results-based approach is essential to address the challenges in our health system,” said Dr. Desrosiers.
The following initiatives were discussed:
- Cataract surgeries – A successful partnership with a Bathurst clinic which doubled the efficiency of the cataract surgery service in that region and freed up surgical rooms at the Chaleur Regional Hospital.
- Innovative and collaborative nursing model – A new model of care inspired by successful practices from around the country and the world allowing for innovation in the way nursing care is delivered to hospital patients. The model is focused on optimizing the use of skills, resources, and teamwork.
- Partnership with the RCMP – Integrated mobile services to address addiction and mental health crises through on-site crisis assessment and defusing.
- ER improvement project at the Dumont University Hospital Centre (UHC) – An improvement project is currently underway at the ER of the Dumont UHC to improve patient flow, reduce wait times and overcrowding, and promote better patient management.
- Staff recruitment and retention – International recruitment missions, creation of a task force, promotion of training for health professionals, and meetings to help retain employees.
- Launching of the Geriatric Health and Wellness Clinic – A new comprehensive assessment and rehabilitation service for seniors aged 65 and over offered at the Dumont UHC. Service provided by a multidisciplinary team; includes the coordination of services for seniors to promote their autonomy and quality of life.
- Organization’s dashboard – A dashboard of the organization's improvement data was presented. It can also be viewed online here.