Better run hospital means public sector jobs

First published:
Jan 15, 2003

While officials for the Northumberland Health Care Centre were proudly saying it is holding its own, residents in West Northumberland should take a careful look at the new Hospital Report 2002:Accute Care released last Thursday.

It is particularly poignant in light of a visit by Maude Barlow, executive director of the Council of Canadians Monday night. Speaking at Trinity United Church, her organization is preparing for a major national conference in early February. It is fighting to keep a public health care system in Canada rather than a private one like the United States. The council’s goal is to continue applying pressure on the federal and provincial governments to follow through on the recent recommendations made by Roy Romanow in his landmark study.

However noble the objectives of the Council of Canadians may be, the most important battlefront in the fight against privatization is local. Without high quality health care delivered in Northumberland, then a national fight to keep a public health care system is for nothing.

So it is with great interest the Hospital Report 2002 is received. Mary Anne Shill, vice-president of patient care services, is quick to point out the high marks Northumberland received in the area of financial performance.

Unquestionably this is a major achievement. Taxpayers are reassured our money is being well managed. Between 1996 to 1998, the hospital received a below average marks in this area. Obviously this shows the hospital management and board of directors are successful in efforts to improve when an area is below standard.

It also is given higher than average marks in several other areas. Day surgery for gall bladders was above average, a consistent area of high performance over the years. It also got top marks for hysterectomy surgery that is a procedure to remove the uterus. Finally, it received above average marks for patient care hours, meaning those who look after patients make up the majority of total hours worked by all staff.

But not everything is roses. Northumberland is below average in its efforts to work with other health care partners. That means, in general, it is not doing as good a job as it could by voluntarily working with organizations like the health unit and other health care groups.

What is most disturbing is the way the hospital falls down in the area of direct patient service. While it receives an average mark for its overall patient care, it is below average in what people think about service when they stay. It also received low marks in support services, like those provided by volunteers, social service workers, and receptionist, among others. It also scored very low on the general housekeeping.

Add to this is low score in area of support for hospital staff and a clear picture is emerging.

It appears in the areas where people are involved; Northumberland Health Care Centre is not performing. It would seem accounting books, bricks and mortar are more important than people. That may be a bit harsh, but one has to wonder in light of this report.

This is not acceptable. Especially in light of the millions of dollars local people have donated to its new facility. It is great we are on the verge of getting a new $62 million this fall.

And residents continue to demonstrate incredible support by donating for equipment, as well. Last week it was announced The Light the Tree campaign has hit $72,000, just shy of its $80,000 goal. The money will be used for a Cardiac Stress testing machine.

Yes, we need a new building. Of course, all residents in Northumberland want excellent equipment. All this means nothing, if we can’t get a decent meal, a clean room and top notch care.

And it is not as if it is impossible. In the past some of these areas were graded as average. So it seems there may be a slight slippage.

But like a good student who comes home with an okay report card, we want them to do better. We want them to be the best.

The board of directors needs to publicly announce a strategy to fix these areas, hopefully in conjunction with all health care professionals and other staff.  The sooner this plan is being acted on, the better.

It should also make public specific goals to improve those areas, which are already considered average. Why not improve these areas the same way it did in the financial performance.

Residents should also be keeping a close eye on the hospital. Our generosity should be supported by a demand for accountability.

In achieving this level of performance, Northumberland residents benefit. It also removes any arguments by those wanting to privatize our health care system. The public sector can do the job better than anyone else. Northumberland should be the example.

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