Dr. Keith Hay gives his report from the Medical Advisory Committee to the Haliburton Highlands Health Services annual general meeting on July 16. /Screenshot

HHHS ends fiscal year with surplus

By Jenn Watt

The last fiscal year for Haliburton Highlands Health Services has been one unlike any other the attendees of the annual general meeting heard on July 16.

“It certainly was an unprecedented year and as you know … our team has been working very hard to ensure HHHS is able to continue providing excellent high quality compassionate care” CEO Carolyn Plummer said in her address which was made over the Zoom online videoconferencing service.

Although much attention has been pointed toward the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 the AGM addressed work done in 2019 as the fiscal year ended March 31 2020.

Plummer’s report showed that the emergency departments continued to see steady usage with more than 11300 visits to the Haliburton site and nearly 15000 visits in Minden. Telemedicine services which connect patients to health-care services at a distance using technology included more than 1400 visits in 2019-2020 saving about 466000 kilometres of driving. Telemedicine became “more popular and more critical” during the pandemic.

Other services highlighted included physiotherapy services (1200 in-patient visits) diagnostic imaging (more than 10000 X-rays) long-term care (with more than 90 residents) and a wide array of community programs.

Community Support Services was busy in 2019-2020 offering diabetes education Meals on Wheels mental health services transportation friendly visiting foot care the adult day program bereavement program home help and more.

Plummer provided an update on how HHHS is moving forward on components of its strategic plan including receiving the “in development” designation toward creating an Ontario Health Team. This process was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic however the CEO explained that the team used the structure already assembled for the Ontario Health Team application to respond to the pandemic.

“Although this obviously was not in the plans… we basically shifted our Ontario Health Team efforts into our pandemic planning efforts. And so the task force emerged quite naturally and the group of people around the table continues to meet today to work on making sure we are doing everything we can do to keep our community safe” she said.

The Haliburton Highlands Ontario Health Team if given the green light from the Ministry of Health is a collection of health-care partners who would collaborate on delivering services to the region.

Plummer said the master plan’s first phase is complete and that a work plan has been created to apply for additional long-term care beds. Funding is being sought for a second phase of the master plan. An in-depth review of emergency response plans is underway. She also noted that in the last year the roof leak was repaired at Highland Wood long-term care home following a months-long evacuation.

The CEO thanked the staff for their work: “This year has demonstrated beyond any doubt that our team has had the strength the resilience and the dedication that goes beyond any words that I could possibly imagine.”

New ER doc added to team

Dr. Keith Hay, past chief of staff, similarly said that focus has gone to COVID-19 preparations at HHHS and he noted the work of Dr. Steve Ferracuti in providing leadership. “That said every physician member of the [Medical Advisory Committee] has been involved in making the changes that have occurred since March and on behalf of the hospital I want to thank them as well as the staff management and board for a job well done.”

A new physician for the Haliburton emergency department has joined the team and Hay said he anticipated more doctors to come. “This has reduced the number of [emergency department] shifts filled by the Health Force Ontario’s ED Locum Program” he said.

Hay noted that midwives have been credentialed at HHHS “and while this does not mean that they will be delivering newborns at our hospital we are able to assist them with the valuable care they provide pregnant women in our community.”

Dr. Karl Hartwick’s 40 years of service was recognized and the AGM attendees heard he will be appointed an honorary member of the Medical Advisory Committee.

Year-end surplus

HHHS finished the 2019-2020 fiscal year with a surplus of just more than $20000 according to information presented by John West of Grant Thornton. Slides showed most of the corporation’s income (82 per cent) comes from the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care with more than $22 million. Net revenues for 2020 were about $27.5 million.

Salaries wages and benefits account for 62 per cent of spending at more than $17 million followed by “other supplies” at $5.4 million medical compensation at $3.2 million and drugs and medical supplies at more than $393000.

Financial information shows grants and donations in 2020 nearing $1.5 million with $756000 from the HHHS Foundation $70000 from the Haliburton auxiliary $29000 from the Minden auxiliary about $78000 from insurance proceeds and $546400 from Ministry of Health grants.

Chiefs of staff recognized

In a document circulated following the meeting Dr. Kristy Gammon and Dr. Keith Hay were thanked for their service to HHHS. Dr. Gammon was chief of staff from 2017 to 2019 and Dr. Hay filled that role when Dr. Gammon left on sabbatical from February 2019 to June 2020.

“Dr. Gammon’s steadfast commitment has supported the organization’s values of compassion accountability integrity and respect” the document reads “and her important and lasting contribution to HHHS as chief of staff will leave a lasting legacy.”

She is credited with working on physician recruitment and retention improving care support for patients awaiting long-term care input on policies and clinical programs among other things.

Dr. Hay’s willingness to step in when Dr. Gammon left was noted as well as the “fresh perspective and ideas [he brought to] the organization.” Dr. Hay launched the environmental committee helped with the accreditation survey process and supported the medical team during the COVID-19 crisis.