Here’s to your health

In the midst of rampant concerns about our health care system, here is some good news experience.
First, I’ve had a chance to facilitate planning for the Northwest Health Network, a regional association of care facilities’ boards and staff.
They are working hard to ensure high-quality, “seamless” care in Northwestern Ontario, to speed the advent and use of modern technology, to increase co-operation while maintaining autonomy, and to do all this on shoestrings.
Second, as one of two new members of the board of governors of Thunder Bay Regional Hospital, I received an excellent orientation to bring me on stream quickly. It involved a lot of background reading and a thorough tour of the McKellar site (my choice).
I was made aware of problems, as well as sources of pride. Some highlights:
1. Kidney dialysis has been a major and growing need in the region for more than a decade. With updated technology and a lot of loving care by staff, the dialysis unit has been turned into a highly efficient, comfortable, and friendly service environment.
2. Some empty space in the hospital is being refurbished to relieve occasional bed shortage. The hospital is old and its unused areas need major work. Each “bed” isn’t just that but a complex service unit.
How much non-existent money should be put into an old facility when the community is working hard to raise funds for the new one?
Tough question, especially in light of my next point.
3. Elective surgery procedures have changed. You used to be admitted the day before, for preliminary tests. That tied up a bed. Being well, you might feel strange, bored, and worried watching the sick patient next to you: Will this be me tomorrow?!
Now you are called in–not admitted–about 10 days ahead. Along with tests, you get a thorough explanation of what will happen. You also are told that if tests suggest other problems or if your immune system is down, the surgery may be delayed.
That’s not fun but the reasons are sound. Service is better, cost is lower, “bed” space is saved.
At my first board meeting, the issue of reducing emergency unit hours was discussed at length. Fourteen board members from the city and region, plus hospital administrators, medical and service staff, agonized over what to do.
The news stories next day only reported the outcome and some reactions–and that’s their job. But this was not a simple decision. A lot of concerns, needs, and limitations contributed to the situation.
It was evident all involved care deeply about good service. They bring different experience and perspectives. Therefore, a lot of factors were examined. In the end, the best possible decision was made given the circumstances.
If you are part of the system, you understand how it goes. If not, you may be encouraged by this:
•our average life span continues to rise;
•quality of life is generally much higher as we age, than it used to be;
•most people recover much faster than in the past;
•rapid technology advances serve the north with tele-medicine, micro-and robotic surgery, genetic intervention, and more;
•turbulence and pressure in the system is normal when change is rapid; and
•treatment and medication is up to the system but wellness and healing is up to you.

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