Small community hospitals across Ontario continue to struggle with the challenges of delivering efficient and effective high quality health services in an increasingly technological and complex health system. As a result of this changing reality and the effects of fast-paced population growth, small community hospitals like Stevenson Memorial Hospital must adapt in order to continue to serve as cornerstones of these rural communities.
We know that our community feels strongly about the hospital and about the services it provides. With that in mind, we wanted to look at ways of keeping our hospital vibrant and current. In order to do that, we worked with our community partners to create a new vision.
In the healthcare world, we call this partnership “clinical integration.” It’s really just a new way of looking at how we provide service and the vision enables us to prioritize Stevenson’s patients for access to specialized care and other services that are not available here.
When we create a seamless transition between two hospitals, patients who need medical specialists care will receive it without long delays and the patients requiring specialized services will no longer wait for days before another hospital agrees to accept them on transfer.
This is not about amalgamation of the two organizations, but it is about efficiencies and sharing resources for providing exceptional care.
I can illustrate the benefits of our clinical partnership with these two patient stories:
In December, 2011 an 84-year-old woman arrived at our emergency department suffering a broken hip after a fall at her home. Nurses began calling to find a bed at a hospital that performs orthopedic surgery. No beds were available and the woman was transferred to the inpatient unit at Stevenson for pain control and to wait for a transfer to an orthopedic-serviced hospital.
After nine days and 88 phone calls per day, a bed was finally found. She was transferred to a Kitchener hospital for surgery and her husband was unable to see her during her hospitalization. Seven days post-op, she returned to SMH and because of her immobility and confusion and the extended hospital stay, she was placed on a waiting list for long-term care and discharged after 197 days in hospital.
Now, let’s fast forward to December, 2012 and the benefits of clinical integration.
An 80-year-old man also suffering a hip fracture after a fall arrived at the Stevenson emergency department early one morning. About two hours later, the ER physician determined that there was a bed on the surgical unit at Southlake. The patient was accepted for scheduled surgery at 3:00 p.m. that same day and he was transferred, with pain control. After his hip surgery, the man was transferred to the orthopaedic surgical unit to begin rehabilitation at SRHC. He arrived back at Stevenson three days later where he received physiotherapy. After just six days, he was discharged from hospital to his home.
What a difference a partnership makes. By working together, we will continue to build on our strengths.
There are numerous challenges associated with serving a community that is growing faster than most areas of Ontario; however there are also many opportunities. Stevenson continues its long history of providing exemplary care to the communities of south Simcoe County, while Southlake evolves in its role as a regional centre of excellence and an emerging academic community hospital.