Dealing with staffing challenges at community health centre


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As reported in this corner last week, a doctor so ideally suited to fill the position (the observation of Michael Barrett, CEO of the Southwest Local Health Integration Network) tendered her resignation just two months after the official opening of the Central Community Health Centre in St. Thomas.

Our accounting of the departure of physician Janice Owen and two nurse practitioners (read here) drew a not unexpected angry rebuttal from Judith Wiley, executive director of the CHC and Cathy Grondin, CHC board chairman.

It also resulted in the issuance of a damage-control media release at 4:50 p.m. Thursday that alluded to “start up challenges” at the CHC with an assurance the centre remains open for patients. The release followed a meeting Thursday involving Wiley and Grondin and the SW LHIN to “discuss the recent staffing challenges.” Read release here


In a phone conversation Monday, Barrett alluded to this week’s meeting.

“I want to speak with her (Wiley),” he told City Scope. “I will talk to her about the concerns I’ve heard and ensure she’s got plans in place to address the recent resignations that have taken place.”

The community health centre has an accountability agreement with the LHIN, and typically the composition of the board of directors and the hiring of an executive director are left up to the CHC.

“Typically health service provider boards are a skilled-based board,” Barrett advised. “You want to have someone with a legal background, accounting background and a clinical background certainly can’t hurt.

“But you need to ensure you’ve got a balance of board members around the table to handle all of the responsibilities of that organization. That’s typically what we would want to encourage.”

For the record, the CHC board is comprised of Grondin, Employment Services Elgin; Shelley McCorkell, Alzheimer society; Marla Champion, YWCA; Cynthia St. John, Elgin St. Thomas Public Health; Sandra Datars Bere, formerly with Ontario Works in St. Thomas; Karen McCaw, Victim Services Elgin; and Candace Parrack, counsellor with the Thames Valley District Alternative School.

Is this board a true cross-section of the community? You can’t help but notice there is not one male sitting on the board. Is it a truly balanced board as suggested above by Barrett?

He referred to Owen’s departure as unfortunate.

“Dr. Owen does have great experience, both locally and provincially. She was a board member of the Ontario Health Quality Council, she was connected with Cancer Care Ontario and Telehealth Ontario. So, there is lots of great provincial perspective on how care is to be delivered.

“And she’d indicated to me, and I assume to you as well, that this is the type of model she likes. It’s not so much a medical model, it’s a model based on the entire patient. So their dietary needs, their social needs, their economic conditions – all those things rolled up into what determines how healthy someone is. I think that’s what she was looking for.”

With the resignation of Owen and the nurse practitioners, Barrett stressed the next step is “to ensure the CHC gets back up and running with the proper staff, physicians and nurse practitioners so they can continue to serve the patients they have on their roster as well as any new patients that are going to come in.”

As to our headline last week alluding to Owen’s concern she was churning through patients without being able to deal with complex issues, Barrett confirmed this had been a topic of discussion.

“I’ve heard those concerns and I met with Dr. Owen last week and she expressed the same concerns that you had heard to me. The issue around how the CHC is handling that, I’ll leave to Judith.

“Judith, as the executive director, has to ensure she is providing the right service to the patients within that CHC and the board is responsible for ensuring the governance of that organization.”

City Scope will meet with Wiley next week to delve further into what
prompted the resignation of Owen and the two nurse practitioners.

A CHRISTMAS WISH FOR YOU

As this is the last get together before Christmas, this corner would love to pass along appropriate gifts to loyal readers, even with our very limited budget.

Material goods are so quickly taken for granted or fall out of favour, so we put together this gift list as our wish to you for a very Merry Christmas.

To your enemy, forgiveness. To an opponent, tolerance. To a friend, your heart. To a customer, service. To all, charity. To every child, a good example. To yourself, respect.

And to all faithful City Scope readers, especially those with birthdays at this hectic time of year when their special day too often is lost in the hustle and bustle of the season — may this Christmas bring you peace, health and happiness.

City Scope appears every Saturday in the Times-Journal. Questions and comments may be e-mailed to: mccallum@stthomastimesjournal.com.

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