Over the last year, Sault Area Hospital (SAH) has seen significant progress in making our vision a reality. The achievements, progress, and even the ongoing challenges have positioned the hospital for success in the future. With the vision of providing the best care at the core of all organizational planning, SAH is prepared for the continued changes that lie ahead.
In November 2015, Accreditation Canada awarded SAH the designation of “Accredited with Exemplary Standing”, the highest level an organization can receive. Last year, only 16% of the 1,100 Canadian hospitals who took part in Accreditation received exemplary standing. “This demonstrates our hospital’s commitment to top notch quality,” says Ron Gagnon, President & CEO. “I am proud of our people who have worked hard to make this a reality for our all our patients and families who walk through our doors every day.”
March 2016 marked the 5th anniversary of the new facility. “Since opening our doors we have welcomed over 4,700 new babies into this world, performed nearly 72,000 surgeries, performed over 460,000 tests in our diagnostic imaging department, provided care for over 98,000 hospital admissions, had almost 215,000 emergency room visits, performed over 681,000 ambulatory care visits and provided nearly 28,000 radiation treatments right here in Sault Ste. Marie,” explains Gagnon.
SAH attended the 2015 Canada’s Safest Employer award ceremony and received two awards of national recognition. The first at the gold level for Safety in Health Care, and the second a silver award for Wellness. “Both awards are a positive reflection of everyone’s combined efforts to improve the safety and wellness of the people at SAH.” For the second consecutive year, SAH was also honoured with a Quality Healthcare Workplace Award (Gold Level) by the Ontario Hospital Association and Ministry of Health and Long Term Care.
According to Gagnon, SAH has expanded efforts to enhance the “iCcare culture” at the hospital. “iCcare (Integrity, Compassion, Collaboration and Partnership, Accountability, Respect and Excellence) is an acronym for our values and we have made good progress in instilling a values-based culture with the patient at the centre of everything that we do. Part of this effort also encourages staff who are doing the work to making continuous improvements and positive changes which ultimately impact patient care quality.”
SAH continues to build on its commitment to forging partnerships with the ultimate goal of improving the health system in Algoma. “We have worked closely with our partners to improve the system of health care in the community and beyond,” says Gagnon. “I am most proud of the work we have done with Health Links, an initiative that ensures that those individuals with the greatest health care needs are receiving the right care in the right place by the right provider.” With Health Links, a guided care nurse is now working closely with patients and their loved ones to make sure that their journey of care is well coordinated, understood, shared, and is having a positive impact. “I am encouraged not just by how this will improve the lives of so many people but also by how organizations and individuals in our community have rallied together to make Health Links a reality.”
Last year also saw the development of an innovative cancer treatment at SAH. Through a joint venture with the Northeast Cancer Centre in Sudbury, SAH is now able to deliver Stereotactic Ablative Body Radiotherapy (SABR) in Sault Ste. Marie. SABR uses concentrated doses of radiation six times stronger than traditional radiation therapy. The doses are delivered with pinpoint accuracy to the site of the cancer tumour, with less impact on the surrounding healthy tissue. SABR significantly reduced the number of radiation treatments patients would have to undergo and has also eliminated the need for patients to travel for this treatment. “Our innovative approach to providing care closer to home received honourable mention from the Cancer Quality Council of Ontario (CQCO) as part of their Innovation Award ceremonies.”
The impact of the Patient and Family Advisory Councils continues to spread throughout the organization. “We have added new councils and advisors have been involved in the recruitment of senior people to the organization and some of our major operational and strategic decisions,” says Gagnon. “Our Patient and Family Advisory Councils are an incredible resource lighting our path to truly patient-centered improvement and care delivery.”
One of the most significant investments over the last year was the Patient-Centred Flow Initiative. This project is designed to improve the flow of patients from the emergency department to the inpatient units. This effort is a multi-pronged approach which will result in reduced wait times and an improved patient and family experience. “This is our highest priority representing a major endeavour for the organization and we are committed to succeed,” states Gagnon.
SAH’s proposal to bring cardiac angioplasty to Sault Ste. Marie has continued to move forward and the hospital has received the support of the Cardiac Care Network. Gagnon says that although are more steps to take before final approval, he is hopeful SAH will reach that milestone within the current fiscal year.
Additionally, for the fifth year in a row SAH has delivered quality patient services and achieved a balanced or better financial position from operations, no small feat given continued fiscal challenges.
Last but not least, SAH physicians are inviting their peers to join them! “This year, we welcomed 11 new physicians – both family physicians and specialists. A recently-hired urologist has recruited a cardiologist friend, and a recently-hired gastroenterologist is helping SAH to secure a second respirologist for the community.
“We have enjoyed many great successes but we acknowledge that there are areas for improvement as well,” says Gagnon. Over the coming year, SAH will continue to work on improvement opportunities particularly in the areas of engagement, readmission rates, and the patient experience. “We will need to modify our approach in these areas and will be reviewing the targets we have set to make sure that our action plans for achieving them are refined and focused on those actions that will have the most impact,” explains Gagnon.
“It will indeed be another challenging year but I am confident that our team at SAH will collectively work together to rise to those challenges.”
Rose Calibani is the Public Affairs Officer at Sault Area Hospital. We welcome comments and suggestions for future column topics. Please call Public Affairs at (705) 759-3671.