/HHHS paying attention to provincewide staff shortage

HHHS paying attention to provincewide staff shortage

By Sue Tiffin

The following are brief reports from the Haliburton Highlands Health Services board meeting held virtually on Oct. 28.

HHHS is looking at strategies to deal with staff shortages, including looking at innovative staffing models, and ways to support recruiting and scheduling.

“This is an issue that goes well beyond HHHS, it’s a provincewide shortage, and in fact it’s affecting people around the world, so certainly not limited to us but something that we very much need to pay attention to and continue to work on,” said HHHS president and CEO Carolyn Plummer.     

Her report to the board notes that nursing agencies that have been providing support are reluctant to continue through the winter due to winter driving conditions. 

EPIC system launching next month

HHHS is going live with a new clinical information system, called EPIC, in early December, which Plummer called a “very significant change” in staff’s practice. The system will launch Dec. 3.

Plummer said the system would have a positive impact on patients in a number of different ways, including that there will be one medical record for patients in the system.

“So if a patient needs to travel from Haliburton to Peterborough for a CT scan for example, or procedure or surgery, they will have one medical record and that information will follow the patient,” said Plummer. “So the healthcare professionals will be able to have better information at their fingertips, and the patients won’t have to be repeatedly asked the same kinds of questions over and over again. Healthcare providers will have immediate access to the care they’ve received, and the documentation about that care in the other facilities. That is going to make a huge difference.”

Plummer said it would also help with patient-safety issues and quality of care, and that the system is designed to help reduce errors in healthcare. Additionally, patients will be able to access their chart online from home. 

“So there’s a lot of work happening on that right now to get us ready, we’re in the crunch time now,” said Plummer. “Staff are going through training and there’s a lot of work being done to test out our pieces of technology … all of that work is being carried out right now. Still a lot of work to do but we are getting there.” 

Nurses joining together for change

A new group, the Nursing Advisory Council, had its first meeting on Oct. 25. 

“They have come together, nurses from across the organization, to talk about nursing practice related issues and to identify strategies for improving practice, improving the work environment, and supporting each other, supporting new hires when they come into the organization. There’s a lot of great work going on.”

Plummer’s report notes: “Several areas have already been reviewed such as dietary workflow on the inpatient unit, housekeeping, and a preceptorship model for nurses. Earlier this month, a walk-through exercise was completed with nurses in the Haliburton emergency department to find efficiencies and determine wastes; plans to do similar exercises with the other areas of the organization are underway. Wastes that were identified include supply quantities ordered, location of automatic dispensing units (ADUs) for medications, inconsistencies with some communication processes, and repeated walks to different areas to review charts.”

Plummer said there’s a lot of excitement around the group, and said the nurses are engaged. 

Topics at an Oct. 28 health board meeting included strategies to deal with staff shortages, a nursing advisory council, provincial funding and the HHHS vaccination rate. /Screenshot from HHHS board meeting

Targeting three hours of care  

HHHS received further information from the provincial government related to funding announced earlier this month that is intended to help long-term care homes increase staffing levels so that residents can receive an average of four hours of direct care per day by the 2024 – 25 year.

Highland Wood has received just over $141,000, and Hyland Crest has received just over $291,000, funding which can support nursing or PSW hours, allied health (physiotherapists, activity aides) hours, and professional development and training of staff. 

“We’re happy about that and we’re working on plans now to determine how best to increase those hours of direct care,” said Plummer. “With that funding it does give us the ability to do that, however, it doesn’t give us enough to completely fill the gap that needs to be filled. So we do need to get up to three hours of direct care per resident in this fiscal year, and although that funding is going to help us get a good part of the way there, it’s not going to get us all the way there, so we’re looking at some innovative strategies to assist us in reaching those targets.” 

HHHS anticipates 95 per cent vaccination 

Plummer said it was estimated the vaccination rate of hospital staff would be at 95 per cent by the middle of November. HHHS is working on mitigation plans for gaps in staffing that may occur at that time, when all staff must be vaccinated or placed on leave of absence according to HHHS policy.

“The rates continue to climb and the impact is going to be minimal to the organization,” said Plummer.