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With the system at a critical point, Niagara Health is planning how best to deliver care into the future

Posted Jun 29th, 2022

This is an opinion column by Niagara Health President and Chief Executive Officer, Lynn Guerriero published in the St. Catharines StandardNiagara Falls Review and Welland Tribune.

The health-care sector is going through change unlike anything we have experienced before. With our annual general meeting held this week, this is a time of year when we at Niagara Health reflect on the past 12 months and also look ahead to this transformational future.

While our staff and physicians have tackled relentless challenges due to the pandemic, we have made substantial progress with foundational priorities that will enable us to provide safe, high-quality patient care and support our workforce and community well into the future.

For large public organizations like ours, strategic plans are important road maps that guide future decisions and help inform the community of priorities. Niagara Health is at a pivotal moment. We are currently revisiting and refreshing our organizational priorities and direction through a strategic planning process that will drive our focus until the doors open at the south Niagara site in 2027.

Our strategic plan renewal is being led by our volunteer board of directors, and includes patient partners, with an anticipated launch in early 2023 following internal and external engagement.

Increasing pressures on the health system, combined with a shifting policy and priority landscape, create a need for intentional strategic planning to ensure Niagara Health remains resilient while also reflecting broader trends in health care.

We know COVID-19 will create significant disruption to hospital operations for the foreseeable future as we work through service backlogs and staffing shortages. We have also learned many lessons from the pandemic. These valuable learnings will inform the delivery of acute care hospital services (emergency care, critical care, surgery and specialized care) and the ways in which we work with health system partners in primary care, home and community care, and long-term care to provide the right care at the right place and create more connected experiences for patients and families at any point in their health-care journey.

There are few sectors under constant change and evolution like the health-care system. New innovations and technologies are dramatically changing the way we deliver care, communicate and work together with patients and partners.

A key component of this transformation in Niagara is the future south Niagara site. We are incredibly fortunate to be in a position to build a second state-of-the-art hospital in our region. The south Niagara site provides us with unique opportunities to modernize our hospital care model and bring new and enhanced specialized services to our region, including additional beds.

This new hospital will feature regional centres of excellence in stroke care, wellness and aging, and complex care for all Niagara residents. We will be better able to meet the evolving needs of our population, retain and recruit staff and physicians, and keep pace with advancements in care and technology.

We have seen a rapid adoption of virtual care from patients and care providers over the past two years and can expect this trend to continue. More recently, we introduced a virtual urgent care service for patients with non-life-threatening concerns to improve access to care outside of the hospital and reduce wait times for care. We are also providing remote patient monitoring to support pre- and post-operative care for hip, knee, shoulder and bowel surgeries, in addition to a number of other virtual options.

Niagara’s population continues to age. Our region has the third-oldest population in Canada and that translates to higher rates of chronic conditions than the provincial average. As we look toward the future, supporting the health-care needs of older adults continues to be a priority for us.

All of these are among the many considerations before our board of directors in determining Niagara Health’s strategic direction for the next five years. We’ll look forward to communicating with you in the months ahead as the planning progresses with an ultimate goal of delivering quality care and experiences for every patient.

Niagara Health System