Once upon a time, pre-pandemic, there existed a weekly (in person!) meeting called Grassroots Transformation. At 8 a.m. on Wednesdays, a group of staff would gather in the back corridor of the Education Centre at Belleville General Hospital to discuss various improvement projects. The Transformation team led these meetings, holding each project leader accountable to provide progress updates, and allowing those in attendance to ask questions and offer support.
Then the pandemic hit. Everyone became focused squarely on COVID efforts and supporting our frontline teams. Improvement projects were placed on the backburner and in-person meetings came to an end.
While we continue to face great challenges precipitated and perpetuated by the pandemic, the Grassroots Transformation meetings have risen from the ashes, this time with a different focus. Each week a group of leaders meet (via Zoom this time) to discuss pressures the organization is facing, and the current demand on our system. They focus in on QHC’s two main priorities for 2022:
- Supporting our teams, including stabilizing staffing
- Improving patient flow, including access to surgery and imaging
The meetings transparently detail the efforts underway to move the needle, little-by-little, on our key priorities to improve working conditions and patient access to care.
For example, during a recent Grassroots meeting, Bree Gaber, Director of Human Resources, shared with the group just how much Quinte Health Care has grown. Ten years ago, QHC had 1,700 staff members. Today, we stand at 2,300. But that still isn’t enough to keep up with the demand—significant numbers of clinical shifts go unfilled each week. Major recruitment efforts are underway and, to help quell the negative impact on units in the short-term, HR has hired dozens of agency nurses to fill in (this is also helpful in ensuring QHC nurses get vacation time over the summer). Nursing students have also been hired as health care aides, working in a similar capacity to personal support workers.
“Just like other Ontario hospitals, we continue to be challenged by staffing shortages. All health care organizations are competing for limited staffing resources. We’re working incredibly hard to recruit and retain,” said Bree. “We’ve hired another temporary Human Resources Generalist and a Recruitment and Retention Specialist to ensure potential candidates don’t slip through our fingers, and that we foster relationships with graduating students, as well as our current staff. We are making progress with recruitment—May’s new employee orientation was the biggest one we’ve ever had—but there is still lots of work to do.”
The weekly Grassroots meetings also address patient flow, surgical wait times, diagnostic imaging backlogs, and supporting our people and teams. As work continues and progress is made to support QHC’s main priorities for 2022, we will continue to highlight for our teams some of the strategies and efforts underway.