As the primary caregiver for both of her parents, Kim Fahner has had a lot of recent experience with Health Sciences North.
Her mom, who died in 2008, had congestive heart failure, peripheral artery disease and had part of her foot amputated.
Then in 2009, her father fell during a fishing trip and became a quadriplegic. Subsequent health problems, including double pneumonia and a heart attack, led to his death last December.
Now Fahner is hoping she can use some of her experiences to improve the hospital system for other families.
She's one of 12 people who have been selected to sit on the CEO Patient and Family Advisory Council. The council is comprised of patients and family members who have had an experience at the hospital within the last year.
They were selected after a formal application and interview process.
Reporting directly to Health Sciences North president and CEO Dr. Denis Roy, members of the council will share their own perspectives and personal interactions with the hospital, and provide input on how to enhance the patient experience at Health Sciences North.
Members will sit on the council for two years, and will meet four or five times a year.
The council members were introduced at the hospital's board of directors meeting Sept. 11.
I just think it's so great they're listening to patients and families.
member of the CEO Patient and Family Advisory Council
Besides Fahner, council members include Holly Baril, Nick Dominelli, Mary Dykstra, Camille Lavoie, Nancy Johnston, Catherine DiPietro, Charles Ketter, Susie Perry, Lionel Rudd, Bonita Georgekish and Sandra McDonald.
“I just think it's so great they're listening to patients and families,” Fahner said. “Dr. Roy seems to be really forward-thinking with striking this committee.”
She said she's met some great people at the hospital, and has also had some “awkward and really painful experiences.”
But as a teacher, she said she believes “if you look at weaknesses, you can make them strengths. It's part why I want to be on this council.”
Fahner said if there's one thing she hopes to make Roy aware of, it's the fact that communication is sometimes lacking at the hospital between medical staff and families.
She said she also found that in some cases, various members of the medical staff don't communicate well with each other.
For example, when Fahner's father was dying at the hospital last fall, his needs were tended to by a hospitalist, or a physician who cares for patients while they're in hospital.
The problem came in when the hospitalist went on holiday. Her locum, not knowing Fahner's father's medical history, informed the family he didn't actually need hospital palliative care, and could go back to Pioneer Manor.
“My sister and I were both broken, crying, trying to explain to her what the history of this man's health was,” Fahner said. “We asked her to read the chart. After we raised enough vocal opposition, she realized he should not be sent back to Pioneer. He died two weeks later.”
She said it scares her to think what happens to hospital patients who don't have loved ones to advocate for them.
On the positive side, she said she's also dealt with many wonderful health-care workers at Health Sciences North.
“There's amazing nurses and care workers in palliative care,” Fahner said. “There's a great rehab team here at the hospital, and fantastic social workers. They're just amazing souls. But once in a while these hiccups happen.”
Roy said he's already learned a good deal from listening to those who were interviewed to sit on the council.
“The interviews were fascinating,” he said. “I can't tell you everything, but it was enlightening.”
Echoing Fahner's comments, Roy said the most common complaint he heard was about problems caused by a lack of communication.
He said about 80 people contacted his office to learn about the council, and about 24 applied to sit on it. This was whittled down to a dozen after interviews.
“I think they will be a very good group of individuals,” Roy said. “I think we'll get a lot of good ideas from them.”
He said he wanted the council to report directly to him so he can personally make sure the problems they bring up are fixed.
Russ Boyles, chair of the hospital's board of directors, welcomed and congratulated the council members in a press release statement.
“Bringing the patient voice directly to the table is exactly the kind of engagement we want with our community,” he said.
Rudd, another member of the council, said he almost became a “professional patient” in 2011 after an intestinal obstruction and rupture led him to go into septic shock.
“It was an emergency situation, and they worked on me for a couple of days,” he said.“They stuck me in intensive care. I was there for five weeks. All my systems shut down except my heart.”
But Rudd said he had some “fabulous care” while in hospital.
“Everybody was so good,” he said. “We have some fantastic people here. We've got some world-class surgeons and professionals. We need to keep these people in town and let them know we care.”
As for the well-publicized problems at the hospital, Rudd said he thinks too much is being asked of the institution.
“The hospital performs many, many roles, and that seems to be ever-increasing,” he said. “There's got to be a point where we need to step back, consolidate what we have and make it all work a lot better. It runs remarkably well in spite of what you see.”