By Sue Tiffin
Community programs provided by Haliburton Highlands Health Services in the area were popular in the past year, with some experiencing increasing volumes and complexity, to positive responses from those using the services.
“This was another year of demonstrating the importance of these vital programs delivered to the community, as individuals and families were helped to overcome isolation, strengthen their health and well-being and be independent in the community,” said HHHS president and CEO Carolyn Plummer in her report to the board at the organization’s annual general meeting held June 23.
The Geriatric Assessment and Intervention Network [GAIN] clinic saw 1,659 visits, with a 15 per cent increase in client visits in the past year and 102 GAIN clients received 858 visits from community paramedicine. Almost 600 mental health clients received a combined 5,152 visits in the past year, and Home First/Home at Last registered 291 clients, double from last year. Transportation programs had 405 clients receiving 7,335 rides, a 10 per cent increase from the prior year. While use of the Diabetes Education Program increases every year, in the past fiscal year it’s seen an increase of 18 per cent in clients (1,242 clients), and 22 per cent in number of visits (2,661 visits). Hospice palliative care had 326 clients, for 856 in-person visits and 1,886 virtual visits.
HHHS telemedicine services helped, said Plummer, “to save our communities, residents and patients 4,839 hours in travel time and 377,496 kilometres in distance travelled.” Telehealth visits increased almost 40 per cent over the past year, said Plummer.
Hospital visits increase in past year
Haliburton Highlands Health Services has seen an increase in visits in the emergency department compared with the last couple of years. In the past year, Minden and Haliburton hospitals have seen a total of 22,000 visits, about 4,500 more than the last year according to Plummer.
Haliburton emergency department saw 9,766 visits, while Minden’s emergency department saw 12,768 visits. In acute care, 765 weighted cases, 3,855 patient days and 489 inpatient discharges were recorded in the past year.
“What we are seeing, as far as our emergency department goes, we are seeing a return to the types of volumes that we saw before the pandemic hit,” she said. “What we are seeing in addition to that is an increase in complexity of patients that are coming through the door as well.”
Plummer said there was also a slight increase in patient base, and more people seeking diagnostic imaging support, with a total of 9,546 tests completed.
She thanked staff for their work during this time.
“HHHS was able to keep both emergency departments open and operating, even in the middle of significant staff shortages, thanks to the continued dedication and commitment shown by the hospital teams,” said Plummer. “Coming in early, staying late, picking up extra shifts and hours, and adapting their schedules has been challenging but has helped enable uninterrupted services.”
Thanking retiring staff for a job well done
Plummer made note to thank three longtime staff members in advance of their upcoming retirements.
Lisa Tompkins is retiring from the role of executive director of the Haliburton Highlands Health Services Foundation, a role she’s held since 2017 after being a part-time resident of the Highlands for 35 years and a board member on the foundation since 2004. Plummer said Tompkins has been “an incredible leader, helping to bring in funding to enhance our health services and ensure our community has access to the best medical technology.” She said Tompkins had gone above and beyond to lend her support during the pandemic.
“What an amazing legacy,” said Plummer.
Dr. Steve Ferracuti has been part of the medical community in Haliburton for 30 years, and has made countless contributions in support of the medical team and hospital staff to ensure ongoing healthcare services will be available for this community, Plummer said. He’s taken on a number of leadership roles including being chief of staff and a member of the HHHS board several times, as well as Haliburton emergency department medical team leadership, mentoring support, and contributing to the planning of the future and physician leadership role during the pandemic response.
“It won’t be the same here without him,” said Plummer.
Marlene Vieira has been in the role of executive assistant since March 2006. Plummer, who spoke through tears, said Vieira’s contributions have been innumerable while working through “countless changes” at HHHS and in the broader healthcare system. Vieira has played a key role in supporting the board, CEO and management team, and Plummer noted her consistent professionalism and grace, as well as her kindness, compassion and generosity of spirit.