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Our ongoing journey to improve patient care

Posted Dec 15th, 2022

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

Niagara Health has made a priority to initiate change that will improve patient care and experiences for Indigenous Peoples.

One year ago this month, Heather Winterstein, an Indigenous patient, died in our care. To learn from this tragic loss and honour Heather’s memory, we’re assessing our Emergency Department (ED) to collectively heal and mobilize change to improve the care and experiences of Indigenous patients and families. We recognize it is time to take meaningful action in our journey towards reconciliation. 

The independent panel conducting the Assessment is comprised of five leaders from Ontario emergency medicine programs and Indigenous community groups. They include:

  • Panel Chair: Dr. Eric Letovsky, Chief of Emergency Medicine, Trillium Health Partners
  • Pat Mandy, Registered Nurse, Member of the Mississaugas of the Credit First Nation
  • Carolyn Farquharson, Director Urgent and Critical Care, Sinai Health
  • Dr. David Price, McMaster University Professor and Family Physician
  • Debra Jonathan, Registered Nurse, Turtle Clan, Cayuga Nation

The Assessment Panel will review Niagara Health’s ED at the St. Catharines Site with the understanding that findings will be applied across all sites. Niagara Health’s goal is to improve the quality and cultural safety of care for Indigenous patients.

The ED Assessment continues the efforts we’ve made over the past year to enhance care and support diversity, equity and inclusion work.

Many staff and leaders, including those from the ED, have now participated in San’yas Indigenous cultural safety training, while cultural humility and unconscious bias training has been provided to Niagara Health’s Executive Team, Board of Directors, Human Resources team, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee and Medical Advisory Committee. This training is ongoing and will be required for everyone on the Niagara Health team. We are committed to making our hospital a safe, culturally welcoming space that meets the healthcare needs and respects the traditions of Indigenous Peoples and other equity deserving groups.

We have also taken deliberate steps to make the ED experience more streamlined and supportive for all. We’ve introduced ED Technicians, trained paramedics who will observe and reassess patients in the waiting room and support those who arrive via ambulance. We’ve added dedicated social workers to support the non-medical needs of all equity deserving groups. We introduced an Initial Assessment Process to stream lower-acuity patients into a dedicated area. And we’ve launched a public education campaign to help the community understand the ED process and know how to pick the right healthcare option for the right circumstance.

Niagara Health System