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Prioritizing the patient experience at Niagara Health

Posted Oct 4th, 2023

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

Niagara Health is a special place. What makes it unique is our people — the extraordinary doctors, nurses and staff who care for patients and their families every day with compassion and professionalism.

Striving for high-quality patient experience is at the centre of everything we do. Across the 12 municipalities in Niagara region, more than 450,000 people access health care through Niagara Health. Our commitment, through learning, research and innovation, is to continually improve care and make a difference in people’s lives.

Like many health systems, Niagara Health continues to manage ongoing staffing pressures within a strained system. Despite these challenges, our team consistently goes above and beyond to care for our patients.

What is equally rewarding is hearing from patients and families about positive, sometimes life-saving, experiences they’ve had. Sometimes bad news and negative stories overshadow the good. It’s important to remember we serve tens of thousands of Niagara residents every year and, more often than not, we get it right. This isn’t to say there isn’t room to improve.

Patients like Dan, a fitness instructor and former pro football player, who suffered unrelenting back and chest pain during one of his classes. Dan visited our St. Catharines emergency department, where he learned he had suffered a heart attack. With gratitude for his doctors and nurse, Dan has held fundraising events in support of NH’s cardiology program.

Another of my favourite stories comes from Brenda and David Horton. One night, unexpectedly, David suffered a stroke. After Brenda called 911, David arrived at the Niagara District Stroke Centre at Niagara Falls hospital, where he was quickly taken for a CT scan. Within minutes of the neurologist’s diagnosis, David was treated with the medications he needed and discharged three days later. David is one of hundreds of patients who receive care at the stroke centre each year, a leader in best practices for stroke care across our sites.

Without the dedication of our doctors, nurses and staff, stories like Dan’s and Brenda’s and David’s wouldn’t be possible. These stories are further illuminated by our achievements and accomplishments.

For example, in 2022-23 Niagara Health supported 16 organ donors, which led to 41 organs donated for transplant, saving 37 lives. Additionally, there were 97 tissue donors, enhancing the lives of many others. In recognition of this work, Niagara Health will receive the Provincial Conversion Rate Award for exceeding the provincial target for organ and tissue donation.

In addition, Niagara Health received recognition from the Health Standards Organization for leading practice for our Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine Peers, Rapid Wellness Recovery Integrated Comprehensive Care and Emergency Department Familiar Faces programs.

Our new Niagara Health Knowledge Institute and chief scientist Dr. Jennifer L-Y Tsang, is already getting accolades, and recently recognized as part of the 2023 Canadian Institutes of Health Research Team Science Award. The institute was made possible through a generous $4-million donation from the McCall MacBain Foundation.

Generous donors, who give to Niagara Health Foundation, help ensure we have needed equipment. High-quality patient care and a positive experience really does take a community.

We recently learned Niagara Health has the highest adoption rate of dictation software in Canada. This means quicker turnaround for admission, transfer and discharge as well as improved clarity in clinical notes and better sharing of health information to help improve patient experience.

At Niagara Health, one of our key priorities is continuous quality improvement to make patient care better. This is a pillar of our ambitious transforming care plan. To achieve this, we’re working with patient partners, and specific patient populations, beginning with Indigenous partners, to improve care for all.

Caring for patients is the reason Niagara Health exists. As chief executive officer, I’m incredibly proud of the positive impacts we have on people’s lives, and I’m excited about the future .

Niagara Health System