Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance: Ken Haworth, CFO and VP of Operations

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Huron Perth Healthcare Alliance in Ontario was established in 2003, bringing together four community hospitals into one organization, with one board of directors and one management structure. The four hospital corporations include Clinton Public Hospital, St. Marys Memorial Hospital, Seaforth Community Hospital, and Stratford General Hospital.

“The Alliance was viewed as an opportunity to improve patient care in the Huron Perth region by viewing it as a system rather than individual sites,” said Chief Financial Officer and Vice President of Operations Ken Haworth. “Each individual organization was trying to move forward its own perspective and the Alliance allows us to maximize resources, maintain one budget, and have a shared human resources pool from which  all sites can pull.”

Haworth has been in his role since the birth of the Alliance. He said the Alliance has had a balanced budget for six years.

The agreement to come together has shown great improvement in services, but the initial integration had its challenges.“The first four years were the most challenging,” Haworth said. “We had to integrate into one information structure and one management structure. The end result has been almost like a regional information system across counties. This structure allows for standardization of practice across the corporation.”

Haworth also said the leadership of each hospital corporation and community members was critical to the success of the voluntary integration.

“You need communities that agree to participate in this manner, to think from a system perspective rather than a local perspective,” he said. “You need that kind of person sitting on your board or else it becomes divisive.”

Expanding facilities

Stratford General Hospital is the largest facility, serving as a secondary referral site for Perth and Huron counties through the provision of  specialist and intensive care. The Clinton, St. Marys and Seaforth sites provide inpatient care, clinics and other services to their communities.

Stratford recently completed a $65 million capital redevelopment project to renovate existing space and add a 75,000 square foot wing to the hospital. The renovated space was occupied in 2009 with a new intensive care unit, pediatric unit, mental health unit and three education meeting rooms. The second phase was completed in August  2010, adding a north wing that featured a new central processing department, emergency department and imaging department on the first floor; the second floor included a new surgical services department with day surgery, an endoscopy suite and five operating rooms.

“One of the great things about building a new building is being able to adopt a lot of new technology,” said Anne Campbell, Director of Corporate Planning. “Even in the renovated space we were able to incorporate new technology such as Conmed arms suspended from the ceiling that are able to hold our vital equipment. This arrangement places equipment at a convenient height and location , provides more mobility in positioning patients and improves safety. We are thrilled with this great addition in technology.”

Another technology which the hospital incorporated in the redevelopment project has been a pneumatic tube system for transferring lab specimen, medications,  and supplies between units. Campbell said this system saves staff time and enhances patient care. The Stratford Hospital also installed  an automated carousel system in the new Central Processing Department that allows staff to electronically select all elements required which then  wrapped and sterilized. Campbell says this system also saves time and improves accuracy and efficiency.

The building project has allowed much of this new technology to be implemented. “We want to follow best practice in providing services with a new building,” Campbell said. “We have standards we follow to provide care, and we get input from our specialists. Once we know what the new technologies are, we can build accordingly.”

In addition to planning the redevelopment project to incorporate state of the art technology, the Alliance needed to find a way to fund the technological additions. Haworth pointed out there was a substantial fundraising aspect to the redevelopment project. The Ministry of Health and Long Term Care provided 90 percent of the funding for the expansion’s construction, the Alliance was responsible to fundraise for the other 10 percent for construction and 100 percent of the new equipment..

“We were trying to raise about $20 million,” Haworth said. “The Stratford Hospital Foundation took the lead  and despite our local economy being hit hard recently, the Foundation met and exceeded  its goal. That speaks volumes towards the generosity and support of  the people of Stratford and surrounding areas.”

Improving efficiency

With the successful voluntary integration  and redevelopment of the Stratford site complete,, the organization is now looking toward optimization. Haworth said the Alliance is rolling out a process optimization initiative, piloting the program first in the Laboratory. So far the program has shown significant improvement in turnaround time and some financial savings.

“This initiative is not just a process transformation but a cultural transformation,” Haworth said. “We feel process optimization impacts our four priorities: quality, access, fiscal health and workplace health. . We can reduce errors, improve turnaround times and enhance our workplace  environment. We are already seeing a return on investment.”

-by Patricia Chaney

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