An integral aspect of a municipality’s identity and well-being is quite often directly associated with the level of healthcare services made available within the community. Backed by 122 years of respected tradition of delivering compassionate patient care and quality medical services in southwestern Ontario, the new Woodstock Hospital just recently celebrated its fifth anniversary. During those five years the hospital has noticeably added to its services, modernized its equipment and expanded its workforce to meet the needs of the town. The full-service community hospital provides care to nearly 110,000 people within Oxford County.
The history of the town hospital dates back to 1895, but a process to have the aging facility replaced by a new state-of-the-art building was about a decade in the planning. A ground-breaking ceremony was held in November, 2008 and three years later the hospital was officially opened to the public on November 20, 2011. Located on the south side of town, it is adjacent to Highway 401, making for easy access into and out of the healthcare centre.
The Canadian Business Journal recently spoke with Natasa Veljovic, President & CEO at Woodstock Hospital about the transition from the former location into the incredible new three-storey, 350,000 square-foot building, which has more than twice the footprint size of the original.
“The time came for a rebuild and we had a green-field site, which is where the new hospital was built under the new P3 financing model,” begins Veljovic.
The public-private partnership (P3) model is an agreement between one or more public and private sectors to coordinate efforts in creating infrastructure that would otherwise be unaffordable by traditional means. In Canada, P3s have resulted in the creation of countless successful projects over the past 10 years.
“We were among the first generation of hospitals to be built in a P3 environment. We went out for tender in 2007 and broke ground in 2008 and then 36 months later we moved in on time,” adds Veljovic.
The old building was very tired and far too congested to keep up with the needs of modern day medical requirements. There was also not an option to expand the digital bandwidth, which has become so vital in today’s healthcare environment. Veljovic says the transition from the original hospital to the new facility was seamless, and credits the excellent work of all those who were involved with the process.
“Our internal teams were transitioned beautifully into the new facility and we brought all brand-new equipment here, worth up to $30 million in a transformation into the digital age,” she says. “We continue that digital journey and now at the end of five years we’ve had some phenomenal successes and continue down that path.”
Veljovic says the hospital has always had the intellectual capital with its well-trained staff, but the time came for those professionals to be able to leverage that knowledge and expertise into a new facility with digital equipment where they could maximize their skillsets and provide the absolute best care for each and every patient coming through the doors.
“We have a lot of new staff members and tremendous intellectual capital with the staff that came over with us from the old hospital. We’re fortunate to have navigated through this very complicated process in a very highly disciplined, successful way,” Veljovic proudly says.
Digital equipment tends to have a lifecycle of about 10 years and Veljovic says the hospital is prepared for the infusion of the next stage of digital equipment in the new location, when the time comes. Each and every piece of equipment that is purchased is being integrated into the electronic patient record.
Woodstock hospital employs nearly 1,000 full- and part-time casual staff that provide acute in-patient, ambulatory, rehabilitation and complex continuing care programs and services. The majority of the 178 patient beds are now private rooms with their own washrooms, which in itself adds to the overall footprint size. In the old hospital there were four beds and just one washroom in the majority of rooms. The new hospital cares for about 7,500 -in-patients with another 44,000 visits to the emergency room each year. Additionally, the hospital completes more than 72,000 diagnostic imaging exams, delivers about 900 babies and conducts more than 8,700 surgeries on an annual basis.
Woodstock Hospital has all the core services, amenities and medical specialists that a patient would expect. Only in cases where highly-specialized trauma care is required would it mean going to a larger facility in a city such as London. Inclusion of the hospital’s Chemotherapy Clinic in 2012 and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) capabilities was also a welcome addition for both staff and patients, where about 5,500 scans are done on an annual basis.
“People really appreciate not having to travel into a larger centre. Normally it’s a long day anyway so the commute and the parking just adds to that stress, which we’ve now been able to alleviate,” notes Veljovic. “MRI was a big addition because people were waiting and commuting long distances for that.”
According to the most recent figures Woodstock Hospital ranks 5th in Ontario for overall wait-time performance out of 74 Pay-for-Results hospitals measured over 25 different metrics; including such things as ambulance off-load time and the number of minutes taken for a patient to be placed into a bed.
“What really helped us is the strategic vision we had when we first moved in here about how we were going to set up each department,” says Veljovic. “One of the first departments that became fully digital was the housekeeping, portering and transportation area. They were the first to go with a fully integrated electronic system, interestingly enough when you consider it’s a service department.”
Any hospital is dependent upon the excellent work done by its foundation, which is dedicated to raising and stewarding funds for the advancement of healthcare for the betterment of the community and to help meet the continuing financial challenges for healthcare. Veljovic holds the Woodstock Hospital Foundation in high esteem for the tremendous ongoing fundraising efforts it undertakes.
“We had a $60 million local share-plan going into this new hospital and we put that together with the fundraising in the community, which was very strong. We are very proud that we have paid off all our debts. As part of the P3 project the hospital had to purchase all of the equipment. We have a very supportive community and a strong fundraising team,” remarks Veljovic.
In total, there are about 200 volunteers and two boards – the hospital board and the foundation board – all of whom are also volunteers. There is also a volunteer patient council. Each is embedded throughout the hospital and is very highly engaged with the success and operational aspects. More than $25 million was raised for new equipment purchases and capital assets, with the Foundation. There was also the construction of a helipad for patient transfers via air ambulance.
An exceptionally noteworthy achievement of excellence for Woodstock Hospital has been its receiving Exemplary Standing from Accreditation Canada for 2012-2016. The rigorous accreditation process is measured on a wide variety of specific performance indicators.
“We just received 99.5% on over 2,500 different standards for compliance in a very complimentary assessment that spoke about the hospital being highly engaged in quality,” Veljovic proudly says.
The innovative way of thinking by the executive team at Woodstock Hospital can also be identified in a very unique interactive wall on a hospital inpatient unit in the South West LHIN. The new interactive wall is meant to stimulate a patient’s cognition, so has been named the ‘CogWall’ and is the result of a partnership between the hospital and Fanshawe College.
“We received a lot of recognition for this very innovative idea. We had our mental health and the chronic health staff to work with Fanshawe College and their industrial design department on this ‘CogWall’. It’s fun to go and push the buttons and touch the screens. It’s a lot like the Toronto Science Centre module where you can be interactive,” explains Veljovic.
The Next Five Years
From an overall economic standpoint, having excellent healthcare services is a major factor that will greatly assist in draw commerce within a municipality, which by extension will help that community to expand and grow. In southwestern Ontario there has been an 8% population growth and the new hospital in Woodstock is without a doubt a factor in helping to support an ongoing level of growth.
Within the next few years Veljovic says the hospital will be adding more key elements to the electronic patient records to the point where in the future it will be completely digital – without paper. Right now it’s a combination of paper and electronic records but she believes the organization is now at the tipping point as more innovative new modules are introduced to the existing system.
It’s expected a sizable portion of the existing equipment will need to be upgraded by 2020 as much of it reaches the end of its lifecycle, at which time Veljovic and her team will look to acquire newer equipment that is even more powerful. The lifecycle of equipment varies from one department to another, but typically system upgrades tend to happen every 10 years, assuming of course there is the budget to do so. Woodstock Hospital, through its foundation and numerous fundraising initiatives is in an excellent position to reach that target within the three-year window between now and 2020.
“We’re a community hospital and are very proud of the quality of care we provide and are in a position where we’ve just celebrated five years in a brand new facility, successfully transitioning from the old facility,” Veljovic reflects in summing up the journey to this point. “It’s been a series of very successful transitions for us. That spirit of working with the various departments continues on. A lot of lessons have been learned and we continue to build on that knowledge.