WELLINGTON COUNTY – Looking to address fragments in the current health care landscape, the Guelph Wellington Ontario Health Team (GW OHT) has released its 2022-25 Strategic Priorities, which place focus on improving health care through a collective and integrated approach.

The priorities were identified through consultation with the GW OHT’s community, health, and social service providers. 

The three priorities include:
– stronger integration and communication;

– improved health equity; and
– pandemic recovery.

The three priority areas identified will be worked on for the next three years and updates will be provided to the community on the progress of these priorities.

Marianne Walker, president and CEO of Guelph General Hospital, said determining these priorities has been a very inclusive process.

“We felt it was really important that we heard from patients, that we heard from our staff, that we heard from our physicians and our other professional staff [and] we thought it was very important to look at some of our data, and what was the data telling us,” Walker explained. “It was a very robust process.” 

The process also included looking at internal and external factors, including focus groups, conducting surveys, consulting patient and family advisors as well as the Guelph Wellington Physician Association.

The Guelph-Wellington Anti-Oppression Advisory Team was also consulted to help shape the priorities related to equity, Walker explained. 

“What is great about this process, we felt strongly it needs to be bottom up and top supported,” Walker said. 

“We’re really proud,” she added. “We believe that we have captured those priorities that our patients, our families, our clinicians, our teams and our community were telling us were important.”

A critical step in the process, Walker explained, was looking to make sure the health team was meeting the current and future needs of the community, not only in Guelph, but in Wellington County. 

She said it was informing to see how the health teams’ work aligned with the county in terms of some of the rural and urban needs and how the health team could implement them to accommodate both communities.  

“It was so interesting that the themes that came together were very much aligned,” Walker said. 

Improved health equity 

To reflect the diverse needs and perspectives of the community, part of GW OHT’s strategy was coming up with improved health equity, which included connecting with groups that are more difficult to reach. 

“From this, we determined we need to figure out new ways of reaching that diverse group to hear their perspectives,” Walker said, allowing the health team to get better data and a stronger understanding of the health and social needs of different groups. 

“We know that the determinants of health are related to the social determinants such as, housing, food, security,” she added. 

Walker said GW OHT is also looking at international benchmarks, like global diversity, equity and inclusion, to help identify how they can do better. 

“This is a beginning journey, and we’re going to continue on that,” she said. “We’re really pleased this was identified by many groups that this is an important one.”

Pandemic recovery 

Over the course of the last two years, Walker said the pandemic has significantly increased the number of patients coming to the hospital’s emergency department and the number of patients seeking help through primary care providers, among other implications. 

As part of its pandemic recovery, Walker said the first thing OHT needs to do is ensure that its healthcare workers feel valued and have improved access to health and wellness resources. 

“Health human resources is a major issue, not just in our area, but across the whole country,” Walker stressed. 

“We know that we have to take care of our health care workers so that they’re there for the patients to decrease the wait times.”

There are several components to the pandemic recovery piece, Walker explained, including not only staff wellness, but also continuing to explore innovative ways to recruit and retain staff. 

“In terms of the actual wait times, for example surgical resumption, there’s a huge waitlist because during the pandemic we had to open and close several times,” she said. “So it really is a system coming together to address that.”

Another part of the strategies, Walker said, is a focus on patient care teams, meaning a patient is aligned with a primary care team, offering a more personalized approach.

Patients will have a single team of providers who will work together to identify and meet patient’s health goals, which will be shared among those involved. 

“So we’re really excited about that model,” Walker said. “We truly believe that this is really going to help in many venues in terms of giving that excellent outcome and stronger integration.

“Because the patient’s goals will be known by all care providers, so it becomes a seamless system.”

Improving accessibility to health care

Looking at the three priorities overall, they combine to achieve improved accessibility and equity in the health care system, Walker explained. 

“If we look at stronger integration and communication, that’s also aligned with health equity,” she said. 

This, Walker explained, will include looking at how to “ensure that we get equitable service to the underserved or the racialized or marginalized in our community, because that might look a little bit different in terms of their needs.”

This means taking an integrated approach and working with GW OHT’S partners – housing and municipal – to come together to make those improvements.

“Our healthcare has been so fragmented over the years, and we believe these new strategic priorities are really going to help us have a good start on improving that integration to make a difference to that patient and family’s quality of life,” Walker said. 

“Guelph Wellington OHT is one that is being recognized in the province as one of the leaders and I think that this is one of the first steps of really getting at some of the issues that we need to address.”

Read the full Wellington Advertiser article HERE.

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