As a Board, we are very proud of the work the hospital has done this year in support of patients, families, and the community we all serve. It has been a year of significant change, both for the hospital and the broader healthcare system.
The strategic work of the Board this year focused in three large areas: strategic planning, leadership changes, and responding to the changing health system landscape. Operationally, the hospital’s occupancy continued to be the biggest ongoing challenge. Of course, the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic towards the end of the fiscal year also created significant operations and governance challenges.
Here is a brief summary of the main challenges facing the hospital and the Board’s response.
Changing health system
Early in the year, the Government of Ontario flagged significant changes would be coming to healthcare, including the creation of Ontario Health Teams to organize and deliver integrated care across different healthcare providers. Queensway Carleton Hospital officially signed on to the “Three Rivers” submission to the Ontario government, with the goal of becoming an official Ontario Health Team. The “Three Rivers” partnership project is underway in Western Ottawa, Arnprior, north Lanark County and the surrounding geography. The team includes multiple community organizations, hospitals, primary care providers, Family Health Teams and more.
To date, the group has completed a “self-assessment submission” indicating how we will work together to provide integrated care, ensuring patients are supported throughout their entire journey with the health system. The QCH Board of Directors is highly engaged in this discussion and is optimistic that we can deliver great value to patients through further collaboration and integration.
QCH also kicked off the True North Project, its strategic planning process. It was time for the organization to pause, take a step back, and really evaluate how it can best serve this community. Afterall, QCH is no longer a small community hospital. Over the last 20 years we have grown into a highly respected regional healthcare leader — we have grown from 1,300 employees to over 2,100 and our budget has quadrupled from $50 million to almost $220 million.
The hospital completed a detailed environmental scan, including stakeholder consultations that reached 1,500 individuals. The project has been temporarily put on hold given the demands of COVID-19 but plans are in the works for its resumption. The Board has also refreshed its strategic planning policy.
In May 2019, the Board of Directors announced the appointment of Dr. Andrew Falconer as the hospital’s President and Chief Executive Officer. Dr. Falconer succeeds Tom Schonberg, who passed away suddenly in February 2019 after leading the hospital for 20 years. The Board completed a comprehensive and thorough selection process that attracted a plethora of qualified candidates from across the country. While there were several exceptional candidates, we believe that Dr. Falconer is the best leader for the hospital at this important point in its journey. The Board supported Dr. Falconer’s on-boarding and orientation and took the opportunity to refresh its CEO succession planning policy, procedures, and job description.
Occupancy continues to be the biggest on-going issue that we track as a Board, as up to 20 patients per night are kept on stretchers in the Emergency Department because no beds are available in the hospital. Last year, that added up to 3,649 patients, some there multiple days. This is an 15.2% increase from 2018/2019. The hospital’s average occupancy for the year was 103%.
Impact of COVID-19
With the arrival of COVID-19 in March, the hospital needed to change the work they did across the hospital, and quickly opened two additional facilities in the community. The changes touched almost every single staff and physician in the hospital, and the Board was also engaged in supporting these innovative initiatives. We quickly moved to virtual meetings and more frequent touch-base meetings with hospital leadership. We worked to balance the need to provide the hospital with the time and flexibility to quickly react to the changing landscape, with our responsibility as a Board to provide governance and oversight.
Operational and Governance Changes
This past year, the Board initiated the use of the OHA Governance Centre of Excellence’s tool for self-assessment. This tool enables benchmarking with other Ontario hospitals across a series of governance best practices. The Board also supported the organization from a governance perspective in preparation for and during the Accreditation process, in which QCH was evaluated to merit an Exemplary standing.
Consistent with industry best practices, QCH created an Internal Audit function last year and hired a Director of Internal Audit who will report functionally to the Board’s Audit and Finance Committee and administratively to the President and CEO.
Annual recruitment for retiring positions welcomed Rebecca Hickey to replace out-going board member Judie Leach Bennett’s position. Ms. Leach Bennett’s term as Board Chair has been completed and Ken Alger was elected as the new Chair for 2020-2022.