As we settle into the fall season and close out the third quarter of 2022, it’s hard to believe we’re nearing an end to the year. Island Health providers and staff continue to work hard addressing significant challenges facing the healthcare industry. While we move forward from the pandemic, the issues facing hospitals across the State of Washington and beyond require collaboration and creativity. These include an increased number of patients needing Acute Care beds, an increase in Emergency Department patients, and staff recruitment and retention adversities due to the national labor shortage. As I tell our team, although these challenges are not unique to Island Health, our solutions can be.
Throughout the organization we have begun breaking our challenges into identifiable barriers, convening teams with stakeholder representation, and finding solutions that work for Island Health. I am asking stakeholders to approach these challenges with open and creative minds, where we have a focus on collaboration and the greater good. I have been impressed with the commitment to “find a new way.”
To address the increased number of patients needing limited Acute Care beds, we have implemented a structured and organized morning rounds plan. This allows for different departments, specifically our Hospitalists, Care Management, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Ancillary Services, to create a daily plan for each patient to maximize care through efficient teamwork.
With limited Emergency Department beds available in the region, we have had more patients waiting (“boarding”) in the ED for long periods of time. As staff care for those waiting for placement or a safe discharge (i.e. nursing home, behavioral health facility, etc.), the length of time before other patients are seen increases. We are in the process of implementing our daily Surge Capacity plan to give clinical staff planned responses to significant capacity from the ED to inpatient units.
We know that the key to being a high-quality healthcare institution is to have an amazing team. Like other hospitals and industries, we are facing a very competitive job market to recruit staff. We also want to ensure we retain the amazing staff we have. This is a top priority for our organization. We are addressing this challenge in several ways. From community partnerships to add more childcare and housing locally to enhancing our recruitment strategies, we are committed to recruiting and retaining our 5-star staff.
Increasing Access to Care
Along with the above challenges, we are also working hard to improve access to providers and appointments for our patients and community. While many of these efforts are done behind-the-scenes, the impact is significant for our patients. For example, we have made updates to the Call Center, decreasing our hold times to under one minute. Our Patient Portal was also enhanced to allow for convenient appointment scheduling and pre-registering for appointments online. This means patients can schedule an appointment anytime, anywhere.
This fall we are also thrilled to welcome several new providers to the Island Health team. Four new providers joined us in September and October, and two more providers join in the next few weeks. You can read more about these amazing additions to our team, who will treat patients in family medicine, surgery, wound care and interventional pain management. These additional providers enable us to offer more than 15,000 appointments for our patients in one year.
Falling into Healthy Habits
As we move into fall, we’re also focusing on healthy habits. Whether you are looking to improve your nutrition and fitness or need to schedule a preventative health screening, Island Health strives to support your goals. We are currently offering a number of free and low-cost opportunities for health education and preventative care through classes and screenings. Additionally, the articles in this newsletter—ranging from diabetes to COPD—have been curated by our amazing staff to help enhance our community’s health and well-being.
Wishing you all a healthy fall and holiday season,