The Ottawa Hospital: Dr. Jack Kitts, President & CEO

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The Ottawa Hospital is one of Canada’s largest academic health science centers, the result of a 1998 merger mandated by the Ontario government. In the beginning, there were two large teaching hospitals—one “French“ and the other “English“— and two smaller community hospitals. Though bringing together these cultures was initially difficult, as The Ottawa Hospital reaches its ten-year anniversary, the unification of the individual hospitals is for the most part, complete.

Dr. Jack Kitts, President and CEO of Ottawa Hospital since 2002, says that mergers can result in multiple entities that remain distinctly separate while operating under the same “roof”. Of The Ottawa Hospital, however, he says, “We are now one hospital … we just function on three different sites.” The Ottawa Hospital currently serves a population of 1.4 million people and is the sole adult tertiary and quaternary healthcare provider for the area.

Merging Cultures in Healthcare

The original entities before the merger were much smaller and catered to specific subsets of Canadian culture. One of the teaching hospitals, for instance, served the majority of the francophone community while the other served predominately the English speaking community. On another front, the academic teaching hospitals were being merged with community service hospitals, two very different mindsets. These various environments were, by tradition, more competitive than cooperative with one another.

“So the question was, had we become a large community hospital? Or were we an academic health science center? Either way, we needed to clarify our mission, so that everybody would know what their role was in the hospital,” says Kitts, who was a medical department head for one of the merging hospitals at the time of the merger.

To add to the problems of clashing cultures, the financial strain of merging hospitals was also severe. “The costs rose as the budget was reduced, and we found ourselves in significant financial distress with increasing internal morale problems in the first three years,” says Kitts.

In an unprecedented move in July 2001, the Ontario Ministry of Health, dismissed the board of governors and subsequently the CEO. A provincial supervisor was appointed to assume all responsibilities of running the hospital and to advise the government on how to best create stability within the hospital.

Unifying The Ottawa Hospital

Kitts attributes the unification of purpose and the last five years of success at The Ottawa Hospital entirely to a successful team effort. The current Board of Governors, with fourteen members, is composed of community volunteers selected for their competencies and skills. The board works in union with a rejuvenated Senior Management Team, led by Kitts as CEO. Strong medical leadership is the final key for pulling all the cultures and employees of the hospital together. “These are the three ingredients that took us from where we were to where we are today,” Kitts says.

“It was incredibly important to clearly define and communicate our mission and vision so that everybody understood what we were about,” Kitts says of the early effort to unify the hospitals. To do that, they had to decide where they wanted the hospital to be in five years, and then clearly communicate that message. “At the time, it was a huge step. Don’t forget we had increasing deficits and decreasing morale. We were in the throws of a merger, the community was confused, the academics were unhappy, and cultures were changing. It was rather chaotic.”

They settled on a vision of becoming nationally recognized as the academic health science center of choice. Compassion, a commitment to quality, working together, and respect for the individual were defined as core values. The mission statement includes patient centered health services; variety in educational opportunity across disciplines; developing, sharing, and applying new knowledge and new technology; and playing an active role in promoting community health.

A report from the Canadian Council on Health Services Accreditation (CCHSA) in May of 2007 affirmed that The Ottawa Hospital was achieving its vision. “They said that when they spoke with our patient focus groups, our patients and our health partners … the one thing (that all reported) was that The Ottawa hospital lives its values. That’s probably the biggest compliment I’ve received as an executive – that the people we work with and serve told the accrediting body that we live and practice our values,” says Kitts.

As The Ottawa Hospital realizes the achievements of those stated goals and missions in their tenth year, they are looking toward a renewed and revised master plan to take them to the year 2020 and beyond.

Ongoing Challenges

In the past five years, The Ottawa Hospital has invested almost 500 million dollars in facilities, equipment and technology. Kitts says this is a move in the right direction, but keeping up with modern technology and state-of-the-art equipment is a continual challenge. “The facilities, the equipment, and the technology are the key drivers of satisfaction for your doctors, researchers, nurses and other health professionals,” he says.  “If you can give them modern facilities, the latest technology, and state-of-the-art equipment, you will have a very happy staff and you will not have recruitment or retention problems.”

This challenge keeps Kitts and his colleagues continually looking for new and innovative ways to raise funds and partner with the private sector to benefit both the community and the hospital.

Information systems are also an ongoing challenge for the hospital. “We are now in an era where government, media and tax payers are demanding more accountability from the people spending the healthcare tax dollars. We need to be able to measure performance accurately and in a timely manner,” Kitts says. “We are all going to have to make significant investments in IS and IT in order to measure our performance.” Kitts and The Ottawa Hospital team see these challenges as continued opportunities to move forward.

“We set a vision five years ago and our progress towards that vision has been impressive. Today The Ottawa Hospital has a lot of new facilities, equipment, and technology… actually, some of the best doctors and nurses in the country, and we are producing valuable health research for the betterment of future generations,” says Kitts.

-by Tracy Million Simmons

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Alan Moffat June 24, 2011 at 3:24 pm

Is it okay if I call you Renee? Further to our discussion on the Phone, you defended the hospital’s and yours position very well. I was not prepared as well as I should have been but I don’t have the background in Avocation as do you my honourable teacher but I do not work for anyone of the parties involved and have no hidden motives except to get the most versatile MRI for The residents of Ottawa . The technicians are right in the fact that to MRI the body being close is key. The old machine doesn’t have the power of the latest in technology the new bigger MRI can offer, for the Images to be the best. The body needed to be close to the MRI machine.

In the new machine a patient of size doesn’t have to be rammed into the housing, they can put their patients into the bigger housing without all the tension for claustrophobic patients, Morbidly Obese patients like myself.

Lets just call it “La Machine”, this should be a new era in medical patient gratification. The patient can be taken into La Machine on a table that shouldn’t wince under the weight of the patient the same as on departure.

La Machine has three times the power of conventional MRI or the old not big enough large bore. The images are or should be clearer, be able to see more things than the old MRI could hope to see.

La Machine for the one size fits all MRI patients. Will make a patient feel special Knowing they were just in the best MRI machine money can buy. If I thought it was because of the difference in money then tell their salesmen to wave his commission, and the Company its profit. The Hospital Group needs to look at the patient needs comes first as most of the donations that pay for big ticket items comes from the citizens of Ottawa and their time in working the phones.

I have seen it myself in the Bariatric Medicine introductory first visit where you go into the meeting and are sitting in bariatric chairs made for Obese people so they would feel special and not have to worry about breaking a chair or just feeling comfort. I always look for the biggest or the strongest built chair to sit in.

Please allow Dr. Jack Kitts and the board members to read my suggestion, as I feel strongly about this. The first time they rammed me into the large bore I was thinking in my head why bother to get this piece of junk, its only 2 inches bigger in diameter. No wonder they didn’t understand what all the commotion and fuss was about when they booked me in the small bore by mistake. Do not rush your decision this is an important crossroads in the OTTAWA HOSPITAL GROUP future to be world class. Look at Dr. House on Fox TV with a shot of the MRI room and how spacious the room is. Built the Image…. Feel the image……Print the Image.


Alan Moffat


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