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Sault Area Hospital

  • Location: Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario
  • Award: 4Q13 International Healthcare Organization of the Quarter
  • Awarded: October 2013

A Little About Us

Located at the hub of the Great Lakes in beautiful Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, across from our sister city of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, Sault Area Hospital (SAH) is a vital cornerstone in the community with a long, storied and proud history.

SAH began as two community hospitals both situated on the St. Mary's River in downtown Sault Ste. Marie – the Sault Ste. Marie General Hospital (Catholic hospital founded by the Sisters of the Cross in 1898) and the Plummer Memorial Public Hospital (created in 1919). In 1993, the two formed a partnership becoming Sault Area Hospital.

On March 2011, a new one-site, state-of-the-art hospital in the northern part of the city was opened to the public.

Serving a catchment population of approximately 120,000 with an approved complement of 293 beds and a total annual budget of $225 million, SAH provides primary, secondary and select tertiary services to residents in Sault Ste. Marie and the District of Algoma.

In addition to providing core services in Emergency and Critical Care, Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics, Maternity and Pediatrics, Mental Health and Addictions, Complex Continuing Care; and Rehabilitation, SAH is also home to the Algoma Regional Renal Program and the Algoma District Cancer Program. With the opening of the new hospital also came the first-ever standalone satellite radiation treatment suite in the province. 

SAH is extremely proud of our approximately 1850 dedicated staff, 370 physicians and 425+ volunteers.

Our Watershed Moment

By the end of 2006, the hospital was faced with a "perfect storm" of challenges including quality issues, poor morale, staff safety concerns, sagging confidence, steadily growing annual deficits and, most importantly, unhappy patients and families. During the same time, we were faced with the most devastating situation the hospital had ever known – a significant outbreak of Colostrum Difficile. It was at that point that the CEO, Senior Management Team and Board vowed "never again!" To this day, a copy of the front page from the local paper ("18 Deaths linked to C. difficile at SAH" and "Sault hospital guilty of safety breaches") hangs in the CEO's office as a constant reminder of that vow.

The Journey Begins

In 2007, Sault Area Hospital became the first Canadian hospital to partner with the Studer Group and embrace the culture of learning and continuous improvement that ultimately became our strategy – aptly named after our core values of Integrity, Compassion, Collaboration & Partnership, Accountability, Respect and Excellence.

We embraced the evidence-based tools and practices shared with us, refining and adapting them for our own organization along the way – rounding for outcomes, reward and recognition, thank you notes, stoplight reports, pillar (communication) boards, quarterly CEO Forums, the LEM tool and alignment under Pillars which reflected the priorities of the day. These too evolved as our situation changed (added a new hospital Pillar in 2009 and 2010 for example), leading us to our current Pillars of Quality and Service, People, Partnerships and Operational Efficiency – which align exactly with our priorities as outlined in our Strategic Plan.

By 2009, SAH had a new five year strategic plan and a bold and lofty vision of "Being recognized as the best hospital in Canada and an active partner in the best health care system in the country."

What we have accomplished…so far

When it comes to our patients…

We have reduced our overall Hospital Acquired Infection (HAI) rates almost by half, with a more than 80% decrease in C. Diff. infections.

We have also seen significant improvement in our Hospital Standardized Mortality Ratio (ratio of deaths vs expected deaths for an institution of our size/type) from just below 100 (expected) to less than 80 (well below expected mortality).

HSMR – Continual Improvement

Our Emergency Department throughput times went from approximately 5.5 hours when our journey began to 2.4 hours at the end of fiscal 2012/13.

MRI waits among the shortest in the Province!

Not surprisingly, our patient satisfaction ratings have also improved dramatically over the same period of time, so much so, that we have now moved away from overall satisfaction to a focus on improving the % excellent component of that measure. A "satisfactory" patient experience is no longer our goal; we will settle for nothing less than an "excellent" experience.

  Patient Satisfaction–Now moving to % Excellent

When it comes to our people…

  • While admittedly still having a long way to go, we have improved our overall employee satisfaction with the organization by 42% and our physicians' overall satisfaction with SAH as a place to practice by almost 100%! In fact, SAH was honoured with an Excellence In Patient Care Award by the Studer Group in September 2013 for this latter achievement.

Employee overall satisfaction with organization.

Physician overall satisfaction as a place to practice.

  • Lost time injuries have been reduced by almost 70% and we have seen substantial reductions in overtime and sick time.

  Lost Time Injuries Reduced by 68%

Overtime and Sick Time Reduced by 19%

 When it comes to the health of our organization…

  • SAH went from more than a decade of deficits to operating surpluses for the past two years. At the same time, we have reduced our working capital deficit by more than $50 million.

From Operating Deficits to Sustainable Surpluses!

 When it comes to our community…

  • Remarkably, all of this was accomplished at the same time as we were involved in the largest public sector construction project in the history of Sault Ste. Marie – the new Sault Area Hospital – complete with the first ever remote standalone radiation treatment suite in Ontario. We are extremely proud of our new facility and the fact that it was delivered on budget and actually ahead of schedule.

Our work has not gone unnoticed.

"Sault Area Hospital is a shining example of what can be accomplished when we work together." - Hon. Deb Matthews, Ontario Minister of Health and Long-Term Care – March 1, 2013

Where Do We Go From Here?

Are we there yet? No, but we continue to move forward to ensure that our approach is firmly enmeshed in the fabric of our culture. We have invested significantly in Best Leadership training and tools to maximize the professional and personal success of our leaders and to ensure smooth succession planning for the organization. Our quarterly Leadership Development Institutes also continue to be a mainstay in developing our leaders.

Our journey also includes a commitment to Lean principles and philosophy, empowering those at the front lines to identify and implement solutions to improve the patient experience, organization's efficiencies and effectiveness, as well as employee, physician and volunteer engagement and satisfaction.

At the end of the day, the journey to "Best" is never-ending. It is as much a mindset as a destination. At the very core of our journey and that mindset are our people. They are the soul of SAH and the reason we have achieved the successes we have…talented, dedicated and compassionate individuals coming together every day for a singular purpose – our patients. Together we make a difference!

Please visit our website at www.sah.on.ca and click on the videos to see more about SAH, our people and the pride we have in each other and what we do.

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