HHHS reduces deficit by $182,000
By Sue Tiffin
The following are brief reports of items discussed during the March 28 meeting of the Haliburton Highlands Health Services board.
Haliburton Highlands Health Services has reduced a $250,000 deficit to $68,000, an improvement of $182,000 in six months, from July 2018 to January 2019. “Previously it was projected that HHHS would be in a breakeven position by the end of the fiscal year at the end of March, and we are anticipating that we will be in a position to achieve that goal,” finance committee chairman David Gray told the Times after a board meeting on Thursday, March 28.
Gray said this is possible due to recent government funding of three major projects including the Haliburton water treatment, long-term care roof repairs and replacements, as well as the efforts of the management working groups.
“In spite of difficulties in reducing sick and overtime costs, significant progress has been made to achieve cost savings in all other supply costs with the successful implementation of several projects,” Gray said. “These will achieve annual savings in the coming year of more than $46,000 and pending projects of $52,000 which will positively impact next year’s operations.”
Board member Dave Bonham called it a remarkable accomplishment.
Bill 74 impact on local health services unknown
It’s too early to know what significant changes to Ontario’s health-care system through Bill 74, The People’s Health Care Act, 2019 will mean for health services in Haliburton County, said Carolyn Plummer, HHHS CEO.
The act contains two major components. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care has amalgamated several provincial agencies including Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario, Trillium Gift of Life Network and all 14 Local Health Integration Networks into a “superagency,” called Ontario Health. Plummer said the agency is expected to serve as a single central point of accountability and oversight for health care in the province.
The second change is that health service providers across several health sectors will be organized into 30 to 50 Ontario Health Teams (OHT). Plummer said the provincial government had not yet released much information about what the health teams will look like, but have noted “they will be providing health services in an integrated way, so different parts of the health sector working together in an integrated way such as hospitals, long-term care and community, working together to provide service to anywhere from 50,000 up to 300,000 people.”
She said at this point there hadn’t been clear direction about how the health teams should be established, except that it would be a patient-centred model and that the teams be focused on local health issues.
“It is too early to know what this legislation will mean for HHHS or how it will affect health services in Haliburton County; however given our experience as a rural health hub, our well-established partnerships and collaborations, and our current integrated services (hospital, long-term care, community programs, palliative care, mental health) we have an opportunity to take a leadership role together with our partners in developing the OHT model,” said Plummer in her report.
She said the government indicated they would be issuing an expression of interest at some point in March, but HHHS still had yet to receive it and she hoped it was coming quickly.
“I’m actually excited about what we might be able to do together with our partners, and I think we’re in a really good position to move forward with this,” said Plummer to the board.
Centralized referral service ‘good news story’
Dave Coulson of the community advisory committee spoke to the popularity of a new program offering centralized referral to community services.
“So if you have a problem, phone community services, phone one number, and people will look after you,” said Coulson of the program. Fifty people had used the system, which connects people with a wide range of programs including Meals on Wheels, the GAIN program, foot care program and palliative care services, in three months, and more than 150 people had used it in six months.
“Do the math, there could be four to five hundred people a year who go into this centralized service and get looked after,” said Coulson, who said the service had been a key recommendation of the community advisory committee “from day one.”
Coulson called it a “good news story,” that the province is following suit on.
“So some of us have suggested, well, not only have we identified the problem but we in Haliburton have identified the solution - a centralized referral system,” he said.
“I think it’s beyond good news, we’re looking at good health and maybe saving the odd life, too,” said Dorothy Owen, HHHS board member.
HHHS thanks county for physician recruitment support
Plummer thanked the County of Haliburton for including funding for a physician recruiter in this year’s budget.
“We have seen the success that recruiters have had in other communities, and the far-reaching positive impact that has resulted for those communities,” she said. “We are incredibly fortunate that the County has decided to make this investment in our community.”
HHHS, the Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team and the County of Haliburton have been working to recruit physicians to the emergency department.
“Although we have been able to attract some physicians who are interested in providing locum coverage, we continue to face challenges recruiting physicians to our community on a more permanent basis,” said Plummer.
HealthForce Ontario, the Central East LHIN and the MOHLTC have supported recruitment efforts.
Accreditation assessment in 2019
An assessment of HHHS by Accreditation Canada will be completed in early December. The last assessment took place in 2015. The review assesses HHHS against standards of excellence, identifying strengths and needs.
“The process includes an onsite, independent, third-party assessment of the organization using standards built upon best practices used and validated by similar organizations around the world,” said Plummer.
An accreditation simulation exercise and further training will take place prior to December.
Mental Health Services hire
Beverlee Groves-Foley is joining the HHHS team in the role of mental health manager.
She comes from an extensive career in mental health services at Ross Memorial Hospital. Groves-Foley will join in a part-time role in April and be full-time at the beginning of May.
Programs taking place at Youth Wellness Hub
Doors are open at the Youth Wellness Hub for some programs as renovations are completed at the Haliburton space being constructed as a partnership between Point in Time and HHHS. A kitchen installation and accessibility retrofits are underway, according to a report by Plummer. “As the renovations are nearing completion, some youth programming has already begun, including some drop-in programs, soft-skills development through the arts, and employment programs,” said Plummer.
That the programs have already begun “speaks to not only the need but the desire both to provide the service and for the youth to be accessing that service,” said Plummer.
A grand opening will be held this spring.
Dr. Karaguesian retires
After 23 years with HHHS, Dr. Greg Karaguesian has retired from emergency medicine. Karaguesian was a full-time emergency department physician at Haliburton Hospital, chief of staff from 2014 to 2017 and the Haliburton emergency department physician lead for the past two years. Plummer thanked Karaguesian for his contributions to HHHS and the community, saying he had gone “above and beyond in many situations to help support the team during time of crisis,” and wished him well.