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Niagara Health will continue transforming healthcare in 2024

Posted Jan 18th, 2024

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

State-of-the-art hospitals. Specialized care. Seamless access to the services you need. These aren’t just aspirations; they’re the foundation of Niagara Health’s commitment to transforming your care and experience at the hospital.

As I reflect on the past year and look forward to the year ahead, I’m proud of the strides we’ve made and excited for what’s to come in 2024.

We’ve made remarkable progress in the past year toward transforming care in Niagara thanks to the extraordinary commitment of our Niagara Health teams. The past few years have tested our resilience, but that hasn’t stopped our staff and physicians from going above and beyond every day.

Not only have Niagara Health’s dedicated teams continued to work hard to provide the best quality care to our patients, they’ve also worked toward a shared vision for our future. We’re building a new, modern hospital system that aims to enhance patient experiences and provides seamless access to high-quality care at three cornerstone hospitals in Niagara Falls, St. Catharines and Welland.

In July, we celebrated a milestone that was 10 years in the making when we broke ground on the new South Niagara Hospital at the corner of Montrose and Biggar roads in Niagara Falls. In 2024, we’ll see construction continue, and our teams will be busy planning for the future of hospital care across Niagara. Residents will continue to play a role in helping us plan and we will hold community events in the coming months to update and engage them.

Another highlight of 2023 was when our teams came together to showcase to Accreditation Canada how we provide care and again earned Niagara Health the incredible distinction of exemplary standing. This important achievement, our sixth consecutive and first since the pandemic, is truly a testament to the collective efforts of everyone who works here. The surveyors applauded Niagara Health’s passionate and engaged staff and doctors, our culture of caring and our patient-centred approach.

This was achieved despite the unprecedented health human resources shortages we faced in all areas of our hospitals, from nurses and doctors to specialists and administrative staff. This ongoing staffing shortage has been the single biggest challenge healthcare has faced in my more than 30-year career.

Strategies to attract and retain top talent continue to be discussed in our boardrooms and break rooms. We’re taking a people first approach to meeting this challenge, calling on our staff and physicians to help us make Niagara Health an employer of choice.

We will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to continue attracting healthcare professionals. We made great progress in 2023, hiring 902 new employees. But there’s still much to be done. Throughout the past year, we’ve continued to build and strengthen our partnerships with the province, local elected officials, community healthcare providers and our academic partners, including McMaster University, Brock University and Niagara College. I believe these partnerships are important to finding solutions to our human resources challenges.

Niagara Health’s transformation extends beyond physical structures and encompasses how we deliver care and put people first. To care for our community, I believe we must first care for our teams. Over the past year, we made great strides in promoting and enhancing work-life balance for our team members. We are equipping our teams for success, fostering an inclusive and collaborative workplace, and strengthening our patient-centred culture.

One of the highlights of our transformative journey will happen this fall with the launch of the much-anticipated new and modern clinical information system — a significant investment that will help us to better manage healthcare data and patient care information. Most importantly, the new information system will improve the safety, quality and consistency of patient care across the health system in our community. This is another example of Niagara Health’s commitment to the future, to recruiting and retaining top quality healthcare professionals and to enhancing patient care and patient experiences.

I am filled with optimism as I look ahead to 2024. We will remain steadfast in navigating the challenges and opportunities before us, all the while focusing on putting people first — our patients and our teams — to improve how we work and continue delivering safe, high-quality care to all.

Niagara Health System