Stories are such powerful tools to generate new conversations, share lessons learned, and to celebrate achievements hard won. This is our story at Alexandra Marine and General Hospital in Goderich, Ontario.
It has only been a little over 2 years since we started on our Roadmap to Excellence journey as our response to the brewing ‘perfect storm’ and what we anticipated would be choppy waters ahead. We felt it a fitting image as it came on the heels of an F3 tornado that had just ripped through our lovely community not too many months before. It represented what we knew to be true: that as a small healthcare organization, we were in the fight for our life, and just as we witnessed the resilience of the human spirit post tornado, we realized we needed that same singular focus to draw on our collective strength. Without all the boats in the water and everyone paddling in the same direction, we would have no hope in riding out the storm let alone getting ahead of the wave.
A bit about us…. With a budget of $22MM and serving a catchment of 60,000, we are an ‘Accredited with Commendation’ small rural acute and psychiatric healthcare organization situated along the beautiful shores of Lake Huron in Ontario, Canada. Unlike most of our peer organizations, we are only one of a few similar size organizations across the Province that provides a higher level of service, county wide and regionally. We are comprised of a full service acute hospital, adult psychiatric facility, and multiple community mental health and addictions centres.
In the year of the perfect storm, we found ourselves faced with challenges from all sides - urban solutions imposed on rural issues, a multiyear 0% funding constraint, a multi-year compensation freeze, multi-year mandatory union settlements, historic budget challenges, and a Ministry imperative to maintain a balanced budget. Fueling the storm was a provincial healthcare system not behaving as a system and functioning instead with multiple service silos under multiple funding envelopes, each vying for the diminishing resources.
Our strategy was simple: Remain in the eye of the storm by staying centered and focused on the tasks-at-hand while avoiding the chaotic winds that were swirling around us. From the Board through to front line staff and physicians, we made a commitment to influence strategically what we could not control while remaining focused on what was within our control that could move us toward a new, future vision. With a refreshed strategic direction, we knew our approach could not be more of the same, even with 100+ years of successful service history behind us. We needed a bold innovative vision, and an accelerator that aligned to our values and vision to propel us forward and provide a structured evidence based approach. Enter the commonsense concepts and philosophies of Quint Studer, and our coach Mitch Hagins, who, to capture his words, “pulled up alongside us” during our journey.
One of AMGH’s strengths is our size as we can be nimble and move quickly. As an example, we established a very lean accountability structure that reflects our journey. We focused on building resiliency, accountability, and alignment in our culture. We invested in people through education, coaching, and recognition. We established an accountability framework to measure compliance and outcomes. We focused on 4-6 mission critical goals that cascade throughout the organization. We built competencies and abilities in the leaders of tomorrow.
We are passionate about what we are doing. We will not waiver in our resolve because we know this is the path. Our mission is one that speaks simply but powerfully to our individual accountability to the organization and to those we serve. It is ‘You Can Count On Me’. Our tag line, ‘Best of the Past… Innovative Future’, speaks to the understanding that we must leverage our strengths and realize our future lies with innovative thinking and a visionary mindset. To hardwire the changes in our culture, we hold everyone to our Standards of Behaviors of Excellence. When we recognize someone for the difference he/she makes, we reflect on the value, principle or behaviour he/she exhibited. It is all about alignment and connecting the dots.