The Vancouver, B.C., geriatrician has accepted the position of medical lead for seniors care, a newly-created position at the hospital.
She will start her new job in September, providing front-line patient care and leading geriatric medicine and seniors' initiatives at the hospital.
“I really found the community at the hospital very welcoming,” McElhaney said. “Really, that is what brings me back again to come and take this on. It really was an outstanding experience for me.”
Conversations with Dr. Jo-Anne Clarke, Sudbury's only other geriatrician, also helped to seal the deal, she said.
“She's one of the main reasons I've been interested in coming to Sudbury,” McElhaney said. “She's a young, enthusiastic, bright geriatrician that really has brought a lot to Sudbury already. I'm really looking forward to that partnership.”
The job at Health Sciences North presents “a very interesting opportunity to come and be part of a really evolving health-care system that really has the potential to become an outstanding centre for geriatric care,” she added.
Hospital spokesperson Dan Lessard said McElhaney will be paid $75,000 for the administrative role she'll play at the hospital.
She'll supplement this income from the OHIP fees she brings in as a practising geriatrician, as well as funding for her research activities.
McElhaney is currently a professor of medicine and the Allan M. McGavin chair in geriatrics research at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.
She's also an associate professor in the Centre on Aging, Department of Immunology at the University of Connecticut's School of Medicine, and has been the physician program director for elder acute services at Providence Health Care.
“Dr. McElhaney is a world-class physician, researcher and expert in seniors health, and her recruitment to Greater Sudbury is a major accomplishment for HSN,” Dr. Denis Roy, the hospital's CEO, said in a press release.
“Her innovative care approaches have the potential to revolutionize health care for seniors, and it is the people of Greater Sudbury who will benefit from her work.”
Very often, seniors end up leaving hospital less functional than when they came in, McElhaney said.
She said she plans to introduce a program called 48-5, where health-care professionals aim to address five different aspects of seniors' health within 48 hours.
These five aspects of seniors' health are delirium, appropriate medication use, mobility, nutrition and hydration and bowel and bladder.
McElhaney said she helped to develop the 48-5 program in Vancouver, and now it's being implemented as a provincial strategy by the Ministry of Health in British Columbia.
“This started with a strategy we implemented within Providence Health Care,” she said.
“We showed that with addressing these five problems on a geriatric rehab unit, we reduced the length of stay by about 38 per cent for frail, older people admitted to hospital.
“Although this data is a little harder to show, it also reduced the number of people that had to be directly placed in long-term care from hospital.”
McElhaney said she'll be involved in training staff at Health Sciences North on the 48-5 program.
In terms of the city's ongoing alternate level of care (ALC) crisis, she said this is an issue across the country. She said she hopes to help the hospital build partnerships with community programs to ensure seniors are able to stay out of hospital for as long as possible.
“You have to look upstream to see what's creating the problem in the first place,” she said. “I think this is around the whole concept of building community capacity, and being able to allow people to be in their homes for longer.”
While she's looking forward to leading the hospital's seniors' initiatives, McElhaney will still be a practising geriatrician. She'll focus her practice on Health Sciences North patients. With Clarke's help, she hopes to recruit more geriatricians to the city.
McElhaney said she'll also continue her research activities, which focuses on developing more effective vaccines for elderly people.
“My research is funded not only in Canada but by the National Institutes of Health in the U.S.,” she said. “I also work with the World Health Organization on how to move vaccine strategies forward.”
McElhaney said she's “really excited” to get started at her new job.
“I look forward to being part of the community in Sudbury and really hope that seniors can see the added value of bringing in someone like me to come in and really make a difference in your community.”
Posted by Arron Pickard