In early October, Peterborough Regional Health Centre President (PRHC) and Chief Executive Officer Peter McLaughlin presented the organization’s strategic plan for the next three years. Having been awarded Exemplary Standing in the provincial accreditation process in April, the plan represented more of a tweaking than a complete overhaul. In order to attain Exemplary standing, the hospital either met or surpassed the evaluation criteria in more than 2500 standards, and this distinction is earned by organizations that demonstrate excellence in quality improvement.
According to the plan, the hospital will continue to focus on the delivery of outstanding care, seamless care transitions facilitated by collaboration with regional care partners, develop a Centre of Excellence for Seniors’ Care and continue to focus on building strong foundations. Unlike many of their counterpart organizations, PRHC enjoys a healthy financial position. With an operating budget approaching $300 million, the organization reported an operating surplus of $24,204 in its 2017 audited financial statements, and will continue to preserve its strong economic situation.
Serving Peterborough and Peterborough County, PRHC supports a referral population of 300,000 across four counties, and a regional population of 600,000 in the Central East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN). In his presentation, Dr. McLaughlin explained that the hospital’s number one challenge is patient volumes, particularly in its Emergency Department. Last year this area received 83,319 visits, and based on the traffic so far this year that number is expected to reach 90,000 in 2017. This patient volume is beyond its capacity, and frequently results occupied patient beds lining the halls.
One of the factors contributing to a room shortage is the back-up caused by the inadequacy Long Term Care beds in the area. With no appropriate destination, patients who no longer require hospitalization remain in hospital until a suitable alternative opens up in the community. Dr. McLaughlin indicated that there were 94 patients in hospital waiting for an opening in a Long Term Care facility at the time of his presentation.
Early last month, the organization announced a plan to mitigate this problem by opening an additional 24 unfunded inpatient beds. PRHC normally only opens and staffs additional beds between December and March to address increased patient volumes resulting from the seasonal surge in respiratory illnesses such as the flu. This year however, however, over the spring and summer, patient numbers have continued to exceed the hospital’s funded bed capacity, so management decided to keep these beds open year round.
PRHC management is also pursuing another innovative avenue to address the bed shortage through a partnership with Peterborough Housing Corporation (PHC) to develop an 80-unit supportive seniors’ housing initiative which will provide affordable housing options to meet senior residents’ living needs. Announced in June, the housing initiative which is jointly funded by PHC and the Central East LHIN, is expected to be ready for residents in 2018/19.
According to McLaughlin, the availability of the housing provided by this project will allow PRHC to free up beds and resources for patients requiring acute, hospital level care. These units will provide safe, comfortable, and affordable housing options for seniors in both the community and the hospital, allowing them to maintain their independence while receiving the appropriate care.
The strategic plan outlined a number of other areas which will receive more investment. Hospital administration will continue to focus on regional centres of specialization, which include Cardiac Care, Cancer Care and Surgery.
One of the keys to maintaining and improving the hospital’s performance will be an ongoing investment in digital technology and equipment. According to Dr. McLaughlin, these investments not only enhance their ability to deliver high-quality care, but also helps the centre attract young professionals who are trained to use this equipment and expect it to be available. Beyond this focus on recruitment success, they will also address staff retention through significant staff education and professional development programs, staff recognition efforts and health and wellness supports.
Hospital funding increases announced last May have been directed to the hospital’s Mental Health and Addictions program and will also be directed to new investments to address patient volumes and capacity throughout the organization. Last week, the ministry provided another boost with $1.37 million in a one-time funding to the hospital which will support the opening of 20 additional beds throughout the traditional “surge season” this year, from December 2017 through to March 2018.
While any funding is helpful, hospital management will continue to focus on the development of long term solutions where they are in the driver’s seat and are less dependent on short term, political gestures. KG