And, while that advice may seem a bit odd at first, the vice-chair of the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) said when her children were small, they constantly asked her “Why?”
When the health-care system is no longer working, that's when leaders need to start asking “Why?” as well, Bélanger-Corbin said.
“When you get to that point, and somebody says 'No, you can't do that that way,' that's where you've got to say 'Why?'” she said.
“When you keep on asking that 'Why?' question and you keep on pushing people to truly understand the true nature of those barriers, then you can work beyond it.”
Ask and you shall receive.
Bélanger-Corbin and North East LHIN CEO Louise Paquette were bombarded with questions about why the health-care system is the way it is in the north during an Oct. 24 lunch and learn seminar for local health leaders.
The event, which explored the topic “Health Care Transformation: What Northerners Need to Know,” was put on by the NEON Lights Chapter of the Canadian College of Health Leaders.
North East Community Care Access (CCAC) project manager James Foreman, who was the administrator of a nursing home until last year, asked if it's possible to increase staffing levels at long-term care facilities, as this is a real problem.
At the same time, residents are much more frail than they were when he started working in the industry 22 years ago, as they're staying in their own homes for much longer.
Paquette said the North East LHIN has done some work in this area through a provincewide project called Behavioural Support Ontario (BSO), which provides staff and training to better deal with patients with dementia.
Here in Northeastern Ontario, 68 new long-term care workers have been hired under BSO over the past two years, and 5,500 training hours have been provided.
Kapuskasing resident Diane Poulin, who is on the North East CCAC board, asked if Paquette could clarify the roles of small hospitals such as the one in her community versus larger ones like Health Sciences North in Sudbury.
More and more, people are having to travel to larger cities in the north to receive hospital services that used to be provided in Kapuskasing, she said.
Given that it has limited funding, Paquette said the North East LHIN is re-thinking the role of smaller hospitals.
For example, it's appropriate to provide services such as physiotherapy or palliative care in these facilities, while people can be transported to larger facilities for other types of care.
Paquette also spoke about the North East LHIN's efforts to support new doctors graduating from the Northern Ontario School of Medicine and setting up shop in small communities.
She said she recently met with a group of young doctors in Chapleau. While they're “cute as buttons,” they need mentorship, so the the LHIN arranged for a Health Sciences North doctor to help them out.
Paquette said it's quite a balancing act, trying to figure out how the health-care system should be changed, as it must be done within the priorities set out by the province, for LHINs as a whole, and the North East LHIN's strategic plan.
These priorities focus on everything from increasing access to primary care and mental health and substance abuse treatment to improving transitions in care.
“We're very pleased with the progress we are making,” Paquette said. “We have more work to do, but we have, certainly, as a system come together.”
Like Bélanger-Corbin, she encourages those working within the system to question things if there's a problem.
“Having the courage to question the status quo is not always easy, but if you approach it in a collaborative way and a constructive way with people who are in the same business as you are, then you have some chance of success.”