Reimagining was the theme of Southern Health's 11th annual general meeting held virtually on Wednesday. 

2022/23 was a year marked with highlights and challenges for the health region, and officials are moving beyond the extraordinary challenges of recent times to reimagine what can be for all to thrive and flourish.

"It's no coincidence that this theme follows the addition of a new core value for our region," said CEO Jane Curtis. "When the Board of Directors set course for the organization through our new five-year strategic plan, purposeful innovation was a new core value that was added. Innovation is truly about reimagining. It's not just about doing things the way we've always done them. In many ways, the pandemic forced their hand towards innovation, but this region has historically had the reputation of finding new ways to make things work. It expanded and it elevated our way of thinking to create our new vision of healthier people, healthier community, thriving together with new capital projects, new staffing models, additional standards and expectations reimagining and innovation is the way we move forward together."

Curtis adds, looking back at the past year, there is much to celebrate. 

This includes the Safety Grant award Southern Health received from High Rock Foundation to launch an app that will help pharmacists and physicians optimize dosing and monitoring of Vancomycin. 

"The quality improvement initiative was chosen after a trend in patient safety incidences was noticed," explains Curtis. "This project aims to decrease avoidable adverse events and improve clinical outcomes for patients." 

The past year also saw the announcement of several significant capital projects as part of Manitoba's Clinical and Preventative Services plan. 

Board Chair, Adam Monteith, says directors were glad to see movement on those plans.

"The first phase of the Boundary Trails Health Center renovation and expansion project will add new acute care inpatient beds and provide a larger, more modern space for programs. The new renal dialysis unit at Bethesda Regional Health Center is just phase one for that site. Additional acute beds and expanded medical capacity are also planned. Site preparation has also begun on the new Portage Regional Health Center. This new hospital will include more inpatient beds, expanded medical and surgical capacity and a modern emergency department."

Additionally, the past year saw the completion and opening of the Boyne Lodge personal care home in Carman and the expansion of Rest Haven personal care home in Steinbach. 

Significant investments from the provincial government also resulted in enhancements to key services this past year, most notably Southern Health's palliative care and long-term care services. 

"The program was able to increase support for caregivers in all settings, improve the delivery of inpatient palliative care and enhance training and awareness for all health providers," explains Monteith. "Positive changes are underway and will continue. In long-term care, improvements are focused on resident safety, staff and complement infectious disease and communication with families and staff. The increased support, along with an overall staffing plan will have proven benefits for our residents and communities." 

Curtis adds advancements were also made providing mental health and addiction promotion and care. 

"Virtual care and mobile care are some excellent advancements in this work. Southern Health received approval for a hybrid medical mobile withdrawal management service to help strengthen and enhance the provision of mental health and addiction services of across our region. This program will help support participants 16 years or older who want to detox from a substance within their own community, rather than having to go to a facility far away from home. This hybrid model will include a dedicated medical bed at the Portage District General Hospital for those who need medically monitored withdrawal services at a facility. This team will be mobilized across the region as required."

Meantime, considerable vacancies across the health region's workforce, patient backlogs and volumes of people requiring mental health support were just a few of the challenges faced by Southern Health in 2022/23. 

"These are real challenges and uncertainties. These are ongoing pressures that we are working on to address in many different ways," adds Curtis. "Our resolute commitment is always to our patients. Through the hardships, we keep showing up because our patients, clients, residents and communities are always central to everything we do. We may not have control over some things, but we choose persistence and innovation and reimagining in the things we do have influence over."

She adds, the health region also continues to collaborate with the provincial Surgical and Diagnostic Task Force to address the ongoing significant impact the pandemic had on procedure wait times.

"A new surgical urology program began at Ste-Anne Hospital, the first time this service has been available in Southern Health. Capacity was also added at Boundary Trails Health Center to add an additional 120 hip and knee replacement surgeries this past year. More than half of the 600 patients were able to recover in the comfort of their own home after less than a day in hospital."

Monteith notes, a significant population boom in 2022 also presented some challenges for the health region. 

"This past year alone, our population grew by more than 6,000 people, an amount greater than many of our rural communities. Once again, we have the highest growth rate in the province, experiencing a dramatic influx of immigrants and refugees from all over the world. They come here because it's a great place to live but, of course, this has a substantial impact on our health programs and services. The challenge we face because of the population increases are a large factor in our discussions at the board table. We know that opportunities are always embedded in our challenges, so we look forward with eyes open, staying grounded in our vision and mission."


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