VHA’s CEO Kathryn Nichol Reflects on 2021
As we come to the end of another extraordinary year and I reflect on the past 12 months, I am more inspired by and thankful for our team at VHA than ever before. Our people looked after each other, provided 24/7 high quality and safe care for clients and families in their homes and communities and played a critically important role in ensuring our public health care system could respond to the pandemic. Despite the challenges, losses and hardships, our team has much to be proud of and there are countless examples of innovation, collaboration and creativity to draw from to share with you.
New models of care including the Essential Care on Weekends project and the formation of the THRU team are helping us provide greater access to care in the community. In partnership with Ontario Health Team and integrated care partners, innovative programs such as the Bundle of Care program to support East Toronto residents, North York CARES and a PSW pilot program with Sick Kids are delivering improved care for more clients. And a new Community Support program, Active Body, Active Mind funded by the United Way, is providing greater support for the most vulnerable in our communities.
The meaningful bonds that form between health care workers and clients and families are at the heart of great home care. This year VHA team members received 67% more nominations for our annual client choice awards in recognition of their dedicated and compassionate care during the pandemic. The stories of this year’s award winners remind us what truly matters. And we are committed to continuing to make their care better. A significant initiative to improve communications with our customer service centre is underway and we have formed a major collaboration with GoldCare to deliver enhanced client and provider communication tools in the year ahead.
To combat the staffing issues VHA and other health care organizations across the province are facing, VHA has gone to extraordinary lengths to attract and recruit new team members. We launched new employer branding highlighting VHA’s unique attributes and supported internationally trained health professionals to come to Canada and join our team. These efforts and many others earned our Human Resources group an Innovative HR Team award this year.
VHA’s focus on making care better through home care science has never been sharper. This was highlighted with the announcement of the inaugural Vice President, Research & Innovation role at VHA alongside our continuing investment in research initiatives and the training of home care scientists. These efforts include three studies on the impact of COVID on the home care workforce. We also renewed our commitment to ongoing quality and best practice improvements and were once again recognized as a Best Practice Spotlight Organization by the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.
Another important priority at VHA is addressing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) issues to create safer spaces for our team members and our clients and families. A key milestone achieved this year is the development of VHA’s first ever Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Report, based on the results of a major survey with VHA’s staff, service providers, volunteers and Board members. This DEI Report, which will be available soon, includes key findings from the survey and outlines the areas we will focus on as we continue our heightened attention to health equity and diversity, equity and inclusion.
Of course, there is much to be proud of in our response to COVID-19. As knowledge of the mechanism of infection spread grew, it became increasingly apparent that home is the safest place to receive care during a pandemic. It was very encouraging to witness the growing recognition of home care’s importance across the health system, as evidenced by a recent report from the Ontario Medical Association who included investment in home and community care as one of their top 5 strategies to improve health care in Ontario. As part of our COVID-focused efforts, we partnered in a number of initiatives to support vaccination in our communities with the help of our THRU team and our mobile vaccination program. Alongside 22 other home care organizations in Ontario, VHA made the decision to implement mandatory vaccination for all our team members. We were proud to take this positive step to support our staff and service providers, our clients and families and the health care sector as we work together to keep everyone as safe as possible.
These positive developments and their encouraging impact fill me with optimism for the year ahead. 2021 was a year of change at VHA and no doubt 2022 will bring its share of change as well. Burgeoning trends that will shape our work going forward include:
- the expansion of digital health tools and a shift towards automation including remote care monitoring and virtual solutions to enhance care and address health care staffing issues;
- enabling a more consumer-centric approach with enhanced client communication and navigation systems including the launch of a client portal;
- and, accelerating efforts to integrate care with expanded partnership initiatives to create more seamless healthcare journeys for clients and caregivers.
We will continue our commitment to research to make home care better for clients and care providers and we will work to provide the necessary supports for our valued team members who have worked tirelessly throughout this pandemic, with a focus on supporting healthy work.
I am confident in our ability to meet the changes and challenges that lie ahead thanks to VHA’s impressive staff and service providers, the commitment of our valued partners and the support of our clients and families.
From everyone at VHA, we wish you a safe and happy holiday season and may the new year be filled with positivity for us all.
President and CEO
VHA Home HealthCare