HHHS faces deficit from Highland Wood closure

By Jenn Watt

The following are brief reports of items discussed at the Sept. 26 meeting of the Haliburton Highlands Health Services board.

The closure of Highland Wood long-term care home for nearly four months this year due to multiple roof leaks was responsible for most of the $245000 year-to-date deficit as of the end of July for Haliburton Highlands Health Services.

David O’Brien finance committee chair said that in addition to the unfunded operating expenses at Highland Wood the health-care corporation is also experiencing high rates of overtime and sick time.

“We have a number of different expenses associated with Highland Wood being closed” CEO Carolyn Plummer said in response to media questions at the end of the meeting. “Because long-term care is funded based on the beds being filled when they’re not open we don’t receive any revenue at all. But we did have operational expenses even though the home was still closed mostly related to staffing during that time period.”

HHHS did not lay off staff even though the home was closed.

“That was the commitment we had made to our team and to be able to ensure resources when you need them you have to retain them” said Kathy Newton chief financial officer.

Staff were redeployed to fill other vacancies but there was still an excess of staff. HHHS was able to reduce hours and some temporary contracts she said.

“Ninety-nine per cent of the deficit is related to the excess staffing so that we could commit to retain our resources” she said.

HHHS has requested financial assistance from the LHIN but has not yet received a response.

Understanding the patient experience

HHHS is undergoing an initiative to better understand how patients experience health care. With the assistance of the Community Advisory Committee staff will be undertaking “patient experience mapping.”

“This exercise is intended to help highlight where services are working well and where there is room for improvement from the patient’s perspective” a report from Plummer reads.

John Smith chair of the committee told the board that local cottager Don Ross presented to the committee about his experience as a patient in Ontario’s health-care system. His input helped the committee to prepare for the upcoming initiative.

O’Brien who also attended the meeting said he was struck by Ross’s example of mapping the process of having one’s blood drawn.

“He did a marvelous job on taking us through that process. You think of all the different processes that you go through as a patient in a hospital” he said.

The mapping process will begin soon. HHHS is recruiting those who have accessed one of its emergency departments in the last three months with a chronic disease related condition.

Progress on recruitment

Plummer praised the County of Haliburton for hiring physician recruitment co-ordinator Cheryl Kennedy who has made progress on finding doctors for the area.

“It’s been a huge help having her on board and working with us” Plummer said.

The CEO’s report states that Kennedy and Plummer attended a career fair for doctors in Kingston and met with potential future candidates. “Two additional potential recruits have also been identified over the summer and we remain in close contact with them” her report reads.

“So things are starting to look a little bit more positive in that regard but it does continue to be a challenge for us” she said.

Haliburton hospital emergency department has been chronically short-staffed when it comes to doctors with Plummer previously calling the situation a crisis.

Fundraising for heart health

More than $30000 was raised during this year’s radiothon on Moose FM said HHHS Foundation executive director Lisa Tompkins. She said it was one of the strongest radiothons ever.

“The equipment that we had identified as fundraising for … seemed to resonate with people” she said referring to new cardiographs.

HHHSF is two-thirds the way to their fundraising goal for that project and is nearly finished raising money for cardiac telemetry equipment.

The Cash for Care lottery launched on Monday – earlier than usual – with early bird draws before Christmas and in January and the final draws on Valentine’s Day corresponding to the heart-health theme.

Auxiliary funding beds

Haliburton Hospital Auxiliary president Jacqui Clarkson said her organization has had a strong year with the tea and geranium sale raising $6000 Tag Day bringing in more than $6000 and the boat races contributing $7100.

The organization’s focus now is raising money at the International Dinner on Oct. 19 to purchase two new beds for acute care through that fundraiser.

“We really would like to be able to say we are doing four beds [total] this year. This is our goal” she said. That would mean only five more remaining to replace in acute care.