A health goal for Manitoba: let’s make this Canada’s healthiest province

“Everyone in an operating room needs to practice and train, and train and practice to become more efficient. This isn’t done in health care” – some straight talk last month from a WRHA medical director.

By Cindy McKay

If the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce has its way, Manitobans will soon take on a huge branding effort to turn this into “The Healthiest Province in Canada”. The business community, it turns out, is discovering the importance of health care – recognizing, among other things, that a healthier population means a more productive work force.

In 20111, Manitoba Chamber president Graham Starmer learned about a citizen study of Ontario’s health services which had pulled in participants from every region of Ontario. The initiative demonstrated the value of engaging the public in discussions about health care concerns and proved a valuable tool for achieving positive action.

Before the end of 2011, Starmer had formed the Manitoba Chamber of Commerce president’s advisory committee on health care in Manitoba. A core group was brought together for consultation and forums were held in Winnipeg, Steinbach, Morden and Winkler, where the public came forward with useful feedback on changes needed in health care processes and offerings.

A stakeholders’ meeting with ministers, university leaders, doctors, regional health care partners and group organizations convinced the chamber group that there was an opportunity for business to step up and leverage resources. Throughout the consultative process the committee found that people want to be engaged.

Results of the two-year consultation process were revealed at a Winnipeg luncheon in February, with three key areas of focus identified for future action: economic sustainability, healthy living and patients as partners.

The committee’s report focuses on engaging Manitobans in a proactive effort to prevent disease. A team of professionals will work on a plan of action calling on people to take responsibility for their own health. The “contract”-like arrangement will keep people, patients and health care providers accountable.

When it comes to health care, one wouldn’t necessarily think of comparing the industry to aviation or a racecar pit crew. But guest speaker, Dr. Alan Menkins, medical director of the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority cardiac science program, presented some interesting parallels.

Over the last several years, Ottawa has invested heavily in a heart health strategy, dealing with Canada’s number one public health problem. The effort has received a poor response in a fragmented system. It was recognized that the cultural change required needs to embrace technology, academic research and planning if it is to be effective.
Dr. Menkins suggested that academic and data analysis is the key in determining how productive our current health care services are. Strong leaders and managers willing to take the necessary steps to implement change are essential to bring the public onside.
“The aviation and military are more efficient and provide better quality because of teamwork,” Dr. Menkins told the gathering. “We need to cultivate in doctors a similar approach to that of pilots and co-pilots.

“While operating rooms are not cockpits, they are similar in many respects.” The aviation industry has invested a lot in communications, training and technology. Health care, not so much.

Dr. Menkins also used formula one racing as an example of teamwork. “Pit crews can change four tires in 2.3 seconds. A formula one team from Ferrari watched a pediatric team in the operating room and found them to be unprofessional. No one seemed to know their job or the procedure,” Dr. Menkins observed.

“The communications process needs to be streamlined and everyone in that operating room needs to practice and train and train and practice to become more efficient. This isn’t done in health care.”

Dr. Menkins said he and his colleagues would enjoy having a respectful work environment. He would like to see operating teams discussing strategies and working together under good leadership, with management held accountable.

“Leadership is an issue,” he insisted. We need leaders to take us where we have never before been, to identify sustainable bold steps and take over how we undergo challenges. They also need to be kind and humble. It’s important.”

Dr. Menkins said there is a role in this for business as health care needs investment, adoption of new technology and sound business practices. Those involved in the health care sector need to do a better job of getting the word out, and getting people talking and thinking about the concepts.

“As surgeons, we give patients the upside but we also make them aware of the risk that they could die. We have to say it to every patients, and when they agree it becomes a contract of understanding and acceptance,” he urged. “Doctors need to develop a concept of keeping the patients in the centre of thinking with the right health care team with the right technology supporting the patient.”

The lack of training facilities and qualified technicians in Manitoba leaves the door open for the private sector to be more active in health care screening, he said, with partnerships between government and industry a more accepted practice. Such sharing of effort would free up time and space at hospitals.

To learn more about the process, and ways individuals can take charge of their own health, visit http://www.manitoba.ca and enter Health e-Plan, helping Manitoba become the healthiest province Canada.

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