Lo­cal sys­tem im­proved, but there are still is­sues to fix, says health net­work CEO

Waterloo Region Record - - LOCAL - Jo­hanna Wei­d­ner, Record staff

KITCH­ENER — Water­loo Region’s health-care sys­tem has made great strides in the past decade, but the head of the agency in charge of it rec­og­nizes there are still is­sues to fix.

Bruce Lauck­ner, chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer of the Water­loo Welling­ton Lo­cal Health In­te­gra­tion Net­work (LHIN), is con­fi­dent the com­mu­nity can again re­al­ize im­prove­ments in qual­ity and ac­cess to care by work­ing to­gether.

“I know we can take on these new chal­lenges to­gether as a com­mu­nity,” Lauck­ner told a packed room at the Tan­nery on Fri­day morn­ing, in his first “state of the health sys­tem ad­dress.”

When he started at the health net­work in 2006, a doc­tor short­age threat­ened to close lo­cal emer­gency de­part­ments. Now, he said, they have a full com­ple­ment of doc­tors and other health-care staff, and wait times are among the low­est in the prov­ince.

Fam­ily doc­tors are also in abun­dant sup­ply, thanks to ef­forts from many to re­cruit more to the region over the past decade.

A decade ago, “only 64 per cent of our res­i­dents had a pri­mary care provider. To­day that num­ber is 97 per cent,” Lauck­ner said.

The region is now home to a range of spe­cial­ized pro­grams, in­clud­ing car­diac care, can­cer care and in­te­grated stroke care.

“None of that ex­isted 10 years ago,” Lauck­ner said.

Not only does that al­low peo­ple to get the ex­pert care they need with­out trav­el­ling to an­other com­mu­nity, out­comes are also im­proved, he said.

Hospi­tal care has also im­proved greatly in the mean­time, ac­cord­ing to the stan­dard­ized mor­tal­ity ra­tio, which mea­sures ac­tual deaths to pre­dicted deaths based on the av­er­age ex­pe­ri­ence of a Cana­dian hospi­tal.

“Frankly, lo­cally our re­sults weren’t that great,” Lauck­ner said.

Now, the region’s hos­pi­tals rank among the best in the coun­try.

But, Lauck­ner said, not ev­ery­one can read­ily ac­cess health care lo­cally.

“Our sys­tem is still way too com­plex,” Lauck­ner said.

The health net­work is shift­ing its fo­cus to sup­port health-care providers to make it eas­ier to do their job, and to help res­i­dents get the care they need.

For ex­am­ple, a new sys­tem for manag­ing re­fer­rals for hip and knee re­place­ments is be­ing im­ple­mented to tackle the long wait­ing list for surgery.

“Our wait times sim­ply have to come down,” Lauck­ner said.

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