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