The SBGHC Annual General Meeting (AGM) was held last week where we completed many of our year-end responsibilities including the presentation of our audited financial statements, identification of our Board members and Committee Chairs, and confirming our Auditors.  The AGM also provided an opportunity for us to reflect on the past year, and look ahead to the coming year.

You can find a copy of our Annual Report on our website (https://www.sbghc.on.ca/media-centre/publications) – you will see that 2019/20 was a successful year for SBGHC.  Although we faced our fair share of challenges, SBGHC also achieved a number of accomplishments that will ensure that our hospital is well positioned to provide high quality patient care, and maintain four, strong viable sites in Kincardine, Walkerton, Chesley and Durham.

One of our major accomplishments in 2019/20 is that we have moved from a position of financial peril into a position of much greater financial stability.  The financial position of SBGHC has improved considerably from a year ago.  In 2018/19, SBGHC ended the fiscal year with a $1.7 million deficit.  One year later, through the implementation of a comprehensive Budget Recovery Action Plan strategy, SBGHC was able to turn this financial position around, and finish the current 2019/20 fiscal year with a $1.6 million surplus.

The Budget Recovery Action Plan was developed in January 2019 with input from our staff and Corporate Medical Advisory Committee (MAC).  The plan contained a number of strategies that were implemented over the last 14 months to correct the hospital’s financial course, and ensure we were moving forward on a much stronger financial footing.  Although these strategies changed some of our operations, we took great strides to ensure that these changes did not negatively impact our goal of delivering high quality patient care.

It is great to end the year with a surplus, but I need to emphasize that a surplus this year does not mean that SBGHC has this money available to spend.  Our surplus must be used to cover the money which we had to draw from the hospital’s bank account to pay for the deficit in the previous year.  So, we will continue to identify efficiencies and revenue opportunities in the current year to ensure our new stronger financial position is maintained.

With a more stable financial position, it has however, allowed us to look at investment in key areas like training and education, areas that have needed attention at SBGHC for several years now.  One of these investments is in a new Professional Practice and Education Coordinator role which will assist us in training and advancing our professional practice standards.

Another key accomplishment this past year was our response to COVID.  Over three months have passed since a state of emergency was declared in Ontario as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a new reality for all of us.  SBGHC, along with hospitals across Ontario, made significant changes to prepare for the anticipated influx of COVID+ patients – we restricted visitors, cancelled scheduled surgeries and procedures, implemented active screening, and constructed new walls and negative pressure areas to accommodate COVID+ patients.

We also created a COVID Assessment Centre at the Kincardine site with the support of the Brockton Area and Kincardine Family Health Teams.  And all of our staff and physicians undertook extensive training to prepare for the care of COVID+ patients.

To guide our response to COVID, SBGHC established an Incident Management System (IMS) Committee which was meeting 7 days/week to ensure that the hospital was prepared.  I want to personally thank all the members of this Committee for their unwavering commitment in ensuring we were prepared to support the communities we serve.  The IMS Committee was repeatedly faced with situations where significant decisions were required, but with no guide book to tell us how to do it – the Committee made decisions that required courage and risk, and never shied away from its responsibilities to ensure our patients, staff and physicians were safe and protected.

I also need to again thank all of our staff and physicians in rising up to respond to the COVID situation.  Every day I was amazed that even in the face of this challenging situation, and the unknowns associated with it, staff and physicians continued to perform their duties with passion and conviction.

Fortunately, the prevalence of COVID in the Grey Bruce region and in our hospital has not been as significant as originally anticipated.  However, our preparations will ensure we are prepared for whatever could come next in a second wave.

We are now adjusting to a new normal as we gradually begin to reintroduce services while remaining prepared for a possible second wave.  To date, the reintroduction, which started on June 1, 2020 has gone smoothly, and we moved forward in a measured and staged approach to ensure the safety of our patients and staff.

And this week, we have slowly begun to reintroduce visitors back into the hospital, starting with the acute care units.  Visiting guidelines have been developed with measures in place to ensure the safety of our patients, visitors and staff, and were reviewed and endorsed by our Patient and Family Advisory Council.     

As things start to return to the new normal, we are now able to refocus our attention on priorities and initiatives that were underway ‘pre-COVID’, such as the stabilization of nursing staff resources in the Chesley Emergency Department (ED), and advancing the Kincardine site redevelopment project and CT application.

In the last two weeks, we have had encouraging conversations with the Ministry of Health Capital Branch regarding the Kincardine hospital redevelopment project and CT scanner application.  As most people are aware, there have been several false starts over the last two decades as SBGHC has pursued the redevelopment of our Kincardine site.  Although the physical infrastructure of the Kincardine is aging and requires replacement, and previous applications to the Ministry of Health have been submitted and reviewed, SBGHC has not been successful in moving redevelopment of the site forward.

However, we continue to pursue redevelopment.  To improve our chances of success, we have now modified our approach by breaking the redevelopment into phases, with the first phase focused on those areas of the hospital requiring the greatest attention including the emergency department, diagnostic imaging and laboratory.  The second phase of the redevelopment will be focused on the inpatient area. Our stage 1 submission for redevelopment was submitted to the Ministry of Health in May 2019.

In addition to our plans for the redevelopment of the entire site, SBGHC is also seeking approval for a small addition to allow the placement of a CT scanner in Kincardine.  An application for this addition has been submitted to the Ministry of Health, and is currently under review.

SBGHC is very fortunate that the Kincardine community is fully behind the need for a CT scanner.  The Kincardine and Community Health Care Foundation has committed $4.3M to fund the CT scanner, which includes a $1M donation from Bruce Power made in 2014 to support improvements to the Kincardine hospital Emergency Department.  Because this addition is relatively small, and is fully funded by the community, the target completion for the CT scanner project is early next year.

SBGHC also benefits tremendously from the strong support we received from all four of our Foundations in Kincardine, Walkerton, Chesley and Durham with over $883,000 in funding provided to the hospital in 2019/20 to support the purchase of medical equipment and facility upgrades.  SBGHC was also the recipient of a very generous $1M donation in March 2020 from the Mike and Ophelia Lazaridis Family Foundation to support the purchase of equipment and supplies to ensure we could respond to the COVID pandemic.

As we move into the new normal, our commitment to ensuring that the Chesley ED returns to 24/7 service remains strong.  We have begun to refocus our efforts on strategies that will allow SBGHC to recruit and retain the nursing staff we require.  We recently met with the Chesley ED Working Group, as well as members of the Chesley Physician Recruitment Committee to discuss our strategies moving forward.

There are several initiatives that we will be undertaking to return the Chesley ED to 24/7 service, which will be communicating with the Chesley community over the coming weeks.  We committed to keeping the Chesley community informed throughout this process – this commitment included a promise to hold another public meeting in May 2020.  With the COVID situation restricting public gatherings, our public meeting had to be cancelled, but we are planning another virtual gathering to engage with the Chesley community, and allow them to engage the SBGHC leadership team, along with members of the Chesley ED Working Group in the coming weeks.

One of our actions to support the Chesley ED moving back to 24/7 operation is that our Nursing team has begun laying the groundwork for the development of a comprehensive Professional Practice Model that will clearly articulate roles, responsibilities and professional accountabilities for nurses, as well as put systems in place to ensure ongoing maintenance of competency in low volume facilities, a standard approach for orientation, mentorship and coaching, and support for education and training.  Building this foundation will support the development of all of our nurses, including our novice nurses to become confident in their skills and abilities to safely operate the ED during the overnight hours when there are limited staff in the building. 

A working group has been pulled together at each site made up of nursing staff and leaders to develop and implement the Professional Practice Model over the next six months.

Although the COVID pandemic is not behind us, we are glad to be in a position where we can start to think about normal hospital business again, and spend time advancing projects and initiatives that are vitally important to providing high quality health care in our communities.  We also need to recognize the wonderful staff which work at SBGHC, so we will be circling back to our Employee Service and Excellence Awards which were cancelled due to COVID.

We also have new faces in our organization, and some familiar faces in new positions.  I am very pleased to have Drew Braithwaite and Angela Stanley in key leadership roles.  Both Drew and Angela have taken significant steps to advance their portfolios in Corporate Services and Clinical Services respectively.  I am also very pleased that we have recruited Dr. John Stirrat as our new General Surgeon, and he will be joining the SBGHC Surgical Department next week.

Finally, it is time to refresh our strategic plan.  The strategic plan is intended to provide direction for the organization, for our staff and physicians, and for the community we serve.  It gives us focus to ensure we are aligned in our direction.  We will begin the strategic planning process in the fall, and we will be looking to engage staff and physicians in this process.

I look forward to another exciting year at SBGHC where we can continue to build on our successes, and proudly serve the communities of southern Grey and Bruce Counties.

As always, please do not hesitate to speak to your leader or to me directly if have any questions or concerns.  Thank you.


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