Hospital board chair leaves on a high noteTuesday, July 03, 2012 by: Justin Wilson
Elaine Pitcher (shown) resigned from her position of Board Chair at the Sault Area Hospital’s (SAH) Annual General Meeting, held last Friday.
She has served for 10 years on the board and has spent five of those holding the position she has left behind, and it is not without a great surge of emotion from herself or her colleagues that she retires.
“When I think of thousands of hours of her time and energy that Elaine has taken away from her family and law practice to improve health care in her beloved community, I am truly humbled,” says Ron Gagnon, SAH President and Chief Executive Officer.
During her tenure as board chair, the hospital went from a ballooning deficit to an operating surplus.
Funding for a new hospital was finally secured and SAH celebrated its first anniversary in the new, state-of-the-art facility in March.
Meaningful advancements were also made in areas of patient record-keeping, inter-departmental communication, emergency department procedures - among others - during Pitcher's term as chair.
But her farewell was not the only subject on the agenda for Friday's annual general meeting.
Leagues of advancements in hiring practices, patient care, and finances were also discussed.
Attendees at the annual general meeting heard that the Sault has been successful recruiting physicians even against the challenge of intense competition from small communities
Thanks to the physician recruitment and retention program, 72 physicians have been recruited to the Sault in the past ten years.
“A relatively unique initiative to Sault Ste Marie is that for many years we have actively monitored the progress of Saultites who are currently in medical schools or residency programs worldwide, and we stay in touch with them through quarterly newsletters as well as through our Facebook group,” says Christine Pagnucci, Manager of Physician Recruitment and Retention. “The goal of this program is to keep the students engaged in their community in hopes that they will decide to practice here once they have completed their training.”
Meanwhile, alternate level care (ALC), otherwise known as ‘the place you go while they find the place you should be’, has seen a significant drop thanks to the larger accommodations available presently.
Last fiscal year, patients spent 41,014 patient days waiting for assessment, while this fiscal year boasts a comparatively measly 7,323 ALC patient days.
Patients who might require surgery are being assessed promptly and provided with appropriate treatment options, thanks to the North Eastern Joint Assessment Centre; essentially a liaison between surgeons and family physicians that serves to streamline the entire process.
SAH has been able to deliver so many compelling improvements in the past year because, for the first time in a decade, the hospital has achieved a balanced operating budget – in fact, delivering a surplus.
This turnaround is thanks in large part to the 2010 Hospital Improvement Plan (HIP), which did double duty by both laying the foundation for the forward strides we’re seeing now and improving the SAH’s credibility with the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.
The HIP (and the dedicated men and women working toward its goals) have secured $44.5 million in capital relief funding over the next three years; and while that can only be used to pay down current debts and nothing else, it can only be received in full on the contingency that the SAH maintains a balanced operating budget.
The Icare Awards ceremony was also held at the AGM; Cathy Hallaert was awarded for her outstanding services as an operating room cleaner, Bill Kerr was awarded for his dedication in volunteer work, and Dr. David Berry was awarded for his absolute care and otherworldly efforts to improve patient care and his own understanding as such.
The full text of an SAH release on the AGM and the awards follows.
Sault Area Hospital (SAH) held its 2012 Annual General Meeting (AGM) Friday evening, honouring the contributions of Elaine Pitcher, who served on the SAH board for ten years, including the last five as Chair, and Dr. Alan McLean, who held the position of Chief of Staff for almost six years. Jamie Melville will step into the Chair’s role, with Dr. Heather O’Brien serving as interim Chief of Staff pending the outcome of a national search for a permanent replacement.
The AGM also saw the election of one new Board Director, Pramod Shukla, COO of Essar Steel Algoma Inc. (see backgrounder for bio). For 2012/2013, Greg Peres will serve as 1st Vice Chair and Treasurer, while Ron Gagnon will remain as Secretary of the Board (ex-officio).
Fittingly, the theme of the AGM and the 2011/2012 Annual Report was A Year to Remember, in keeping with the first anniversary of operation at the new hospital on March 6, 2012 and the first annual operating surplus in more than a decade.
“2011/12 was really the culmination of ‘years to remember’ during my time on the SAH Board,” stated Pitcher. “Our achievements were not the result of quick fixes, but rather from years of developing strong foundational plans, working diligently and staying the course, even when it was extremely difficult to do so.”
“I am extremely proud of what our organization has been able to accomplish thanks to the dedication and resilience of our staff, physicians and volunteers,” added SAH President and CEO, Ron Gagnon. “They are the heart and soul of SAH.”
“I would also like to acknowledge Elaine’s remarkable leadership to SAH during her tenure on our Board,” noted Gagnon. “We thank her for her ‘decade of dedication’ to our hospital and community.”
New to the AGM was the inaugural presentation of the SAH iCcare Awards, established by the SAH Board in 2011 to recognize an employee, volunteer and physician who consistently demonstrate the values of SAH – Integrity, Compassion, Collaboration and Partnership, Accountability, Respect and Excellence.
The first recipients of these awards were Cathy Hallaert (employee), Bill Kerr (volunteer) and Dr. David Berry (physician).
The meeting concluded with the much-anticipated presentation of the prestigious Dr. William Hutchinson Award.
Presented annually by the SAH Board of Directors, the award recognizes distinguished contributions to health care in Sault Ste. Marie and Algoma. The 2012 recipient was general practitioner Dr. Susan Febbraro.
SAH congratulates all award recipients for their dedicated service to the residents of Sault Ste. Marie and the Algoma region (see below for bios).
The 2011-2012 SAH Annual Report is available online at www.sah.on.ca
Pramod Shukla - Board Member - Pramod Shukla has been the Chief Operating Officer at Essar Steel Algoma Inc. since 2009.
Prior to this, he also worked as the Vice President of Operations for both Essar Steel Algoma and Essar Steel India.
Pramod received his formal education training in India and holds a Bachelor of Mechanical Engineering.
Among his many accomplishments, Pramod has a wealth of experience in general management with proven success in achieving operational excellence, quality and service improvements and business process re-engineering.
Cathy Hallaert - iCcare Award Recipient - Cathy Hallaert is an employee in the Housekeeping Department who has worked at Sault Area Hospital for over 30 years.
Cathy works mainly in the Operating Room and was nominated by the Operating Room Staff because she demonstrates all of the hospital’s core values not only to patients, but also to physicians and fellow staff members.
Cathy takes great pride in her work and demonstrates kindness, care and respect to everyone she encounters.
Cathy very consistently demonstrates the iCcare values and is a highly valued member of the Operating Room staff.
Bill Kerr - iCcare Award Recipient - Bill Kerr has been a volunteer with Sault Area Hospital for more than 10 years and has been very generous with his time.
Bill takes the time to learn the organization’s mission and values and understands his role at the hospital.
He volunteers in Day Surgery and is always compassionate and caring to patients.
Bill helps patients get ready for surgery and escorts family members into the waiting area all the while lessening their anxiety.
In addition to his regular volunteer duties, Bill was a key member of the team which developed the SAH Standards of Performance, and played a key role in the move to the new hospital by developing a volunteer program in the Emergency Department and conducting the majority of staff, volunteer and public tours.
Dr. David Berry - iCcare Award Recipient - Dr. David Berry is a Nephrologist and the Medical Director of the Algoma Regional Renal Program.
He is actively involved in his department, across Sault Area Hospital, and provincially through his work with the Ontario Renal Network.
Dr. Berry is focused on providing quality patient care and is a dedicated member of many hospital committees.
He takes initiative in seeking out opportunities that will enhance the care of his patients, including researching funding opportunities to support pilot projects.
A countless number of Dr. Berry’s patients consistently remark about the tremendous level of professionalism and respect with which he conducts his practice.
Dr. Susan Febbraro - Dr. Hutchinson Award Recipient - Dr. Febbraro has practiced as a family physician in Sault Ste. Marie for over 37 years and during this time has done an exemplary job, both as a doctor and a leader in the medical community.
She has a reputation for excellence and “going the extra mile.”
As one of the earliest full-time female practitioners in our community, Dr. Febbraro has been a positive example for women entering the medical profession, demonstrating her ability to balance her family life and career.
She has also demonstrated a deep commitment to advancing women’s health care as one of the founding leaders of the Sexual Assault Care Centre, having served as the Clinical Director for twelve years, and has been actively involved with Women in Crisis as the house physician for many years.
Dr. Febbraro has also had significant influence in children’s initiatives through her involvement in the Infant Development Program, the Sexual Abuse Program for Children and the Gifted Children’s Program with the Public Board of Education.