The establishment of the new Zuke Road outreach centre topped the list of 2015-16 accomplishments for the Family Health Team (FHT), executive director Jennifer Learning said Tuesday, at the organization’s annual meeting.
“Patients seem to love the space and the parking and the easy access they have to the building,” said Learning. “We have had very few complaints, which was surprising… this was a big change to how patients were used to getting their health care.”
“There are still things we need to do to the building, but it all takes time and everything is coming along as we adjust to our new space.”
In the fall, the board held a strategic planning session and settled on new mission (“Working together to help our community become healthy.”) and vision (“We will be the healthiest community we can be.”) statements.
The FHT will focus on three areas in an effort to live up to those statements. Firstly, it wants to improve access – something it has come a long way on over the past year, with the opening of the Zuke Rd. office and the spring arrival of three resident physicians.
“One of the biggest barriers to access was that we have only had two physicians, so getting a family physician has been hard for most of Atikokan…”
With all the change sweeping health care, the pressure to coordinate health care programs and services has been significant. The FHT has become a leader on that front, working closely with others, both directly in the health care field (North West LHIN, AGH, the health unit, and the CCAC (senior care)), and just outside it (the ANFC).
The FHT has brought together a caregivers’ group that meets monthly and works to identify areas of common interest and concern. It has also launched a new palliative care committee to improve those services here.
The partnership with the ANFC has been particularly effective in getting Atikokanites active. A range of programs – pole-walking, Tai Chi and Zumba classes, and resistance band work-outs – have been very well received.
All of this has left the FHT in ideal position to meet the latest challenge thrown its way: launching Health Links here. That program is an effort to improve services – and outcomes – for the five percent of residents with multiple health conditions.
“Atikokan is way ahead of other communities in being able to launch Health Links,” said Learning. “Our staff… [works hard] to foresee potential issues and figure out ways to tackle them. The fact that our agency was identifying high users on our own before [joining Health Links] has been noted by the LHIN [the Local Health Integration Network, which funds most health care in Ontario].”
Quality is the final pillar on which the FHT is staking its claim to excellence. It has assembled a highly skilled staff to meet the needs of Atikokanites.
“We have a certified diabetes educator, two COPD educators, and a certified spirometry tester,” she said. “We have three staff members who can provide smoking cessation education. We have two trained in the management of INRs [patients taking blood thinners], three who are certified in wound care, and one who is specializing in hypertension management.”
“We encourage training as much as possible, and we also try to use the latest technologies…”
Accountant David Covello (MNP Thunder Bay) audited FHT finances, which this year included the first full financial statement for the agency. (In past years, the board accepted revenue and expense statements, which is all that the Ministry of Health requires.)
The agency purchased about $20,000 worth of capital assets during the year (mostly furniture related to the move to Zude Rd.), and now has about $105,000 in capital assets.
It’s full budget came in at just over $800,000, with the majority of that (almost 80%) going to staff salaries and benefits. About 7% ($52,600) went to rent for its offices; that’s up from about $34,000 from last year. It returned $43,000 to the Ministry (about half of what was returned last year), and showed a small (under $1,000) deficit on overall operations.
“This is one good, clean audit report,” said Covello. His firm was retained to handle auditing in 2016-17.
The board of the FHT is mostly appointed, with reps from the hospital (CEO Doug Moynihan, board member Marlene Davidson, chief of staff Dr. Joanne Spencer), Atikokan Medical Associates (Dr. Van Der Loo; two other positions for docs are vacant), and the Town (Councillor Samantha Boyko). There are three electable positions, two for the community at large (currently held by Ed Ojala and Edgar Morrissette) and one from the community health sector (former Atikokan HomeCare director Brenda Wood holds that spot).
“The two physician members of our team have provided us with a great deal of support, [helping] us sort through many issues,” said board chair Marlene Davidson. “They help us to provide the primary care that our community deserves and they do it with great empathy and care.”