VPSA’s Vancouver Community members work in several different sites, providing care to some of our city’s most vulnerable citizens: patients often living in poverty with complex diagnoses including HIV, mental illness, and substance use issues. Many of them gathered June 6 at Three Bridges Community Health Centre to meet with VCH President and CEO Mary Ackenhusen. This was the first time a VPSA session was held at a Vancouver Community site.
A common theme throughout the Breakfast with Leaders discussion was the desire to develop more physician leaders.
“We need to create more dyad and triad relationships between our administrative leadership and our physicians with budget accountability,” said Mary. “The extra funding it will require to create true physician leaders will save us money in the long run.”
Mary also noted that an important lesson from Dr. Stephen Swensen’s meeting with VPSA members and VCH leaders was that VCH needs to work harder to remove the pebbles in the shoes of physicians.
Another concern that keeps Mary up at night is the need to recruit and retain the right people to deliver our patient care. It is a challenge that the physicians in the room were glad to hear is being recognized.
“I’m pleased to see that staff turnover is being addressed,” said one VPSA member who works at the Downtown Community Health Centre. “It can take us up to a year to retrain new nurses and sometimes we get people who aren’t committed to our clinics. Long-term relationships are important to patients in the DTES and turnover is highly disruptive to our patient population.”
Other physicians noted the importance of their frontline staff as well as their site managers, some of whom do not feel supported in their roles and where turnover can also be high. Yet more raised the issue of not being compensated for quality improvement initiatives and the message that some Vancouver Community physicians had been told that there was no QI funding available to them.
While these challenges do not have easy solutions, Mary committed to raising them with senior leadership. She also informed physicians that she is available to meet with teams at our various community sites to discuss further the pebbles in our shoes.
Mary is also keen to see VCH adopt more technology to provide virtual health care as well as to improve communication between physicians who work in scattered sites. During the meeting Dr. John Van Bockxmeer commented that communications between physicians in the community could be enhanced by using technology such as the platform Zoom that allows for easy connections from multiple devices/locations.
Physicians offered positive feedback to the session.
“Several told me they really enjoyed the conversation and appreciated the opportunity to discuss some of the issues important to their practice with Mary,” said Dr. David Hall, Department of Family & Community Practice head. “It was a welcomed opportunity for VC physicians to engage with leadership and I hope we can do more of it soon.”
VPSA looks forward to hosting another breakfast in Vancouver Community soon. Breakfast with Leaders is taking a break over the summer and will resume in the fall.