By Scott Nixon, Times-Advocate Staff
EXETER — Exeter’s South Huron Hospital (SHH) has been recognized for its rural medical research.
Accreditation Canada has commended and recognized SHH for its innovative Leading Practices in the field of rural research.
SHH board of directors chairperson John McNeilly said the hospital is very pleased about the recognition, which he said shows how important the hospital’s vision of promotion of health, provision of care and prevention of disease.
“We take that very seriously and we are so pleased to receive this award,” McNeilly said, adding that SHH chief of staff Dr. Ken Milne’s research of rural medicine is just one indication of what the hospital is doing to fulfill its vision.
SHH director of corporate affairs Cheryl Pfaff said accreditation is a process by which the hospital can show its community and funders that it is meeting certain quality standards. She said it’s a voluntary process that sees Accreditation Canada visit the hospital with surveyors to assess the processes that relate to patient care quality.
As part of the process this year, SHH submitted its rural research and received the Leading Practices award in August from Accreditation Canada for its rural health research. The recognition is publicized nationally, Pfaff said.
According to the Accreditation Canada, “Leading Practices are noteworthy examples of high-quality leadership and service delivery. These practices are worthy of recognition as organizations strive for excellence in their specific field or contribute to health care as a whole . . . Often, they are implemented by organizations with limited resources, showing how innovative strategies can be achieved at a minimal cost.”
Milne, who joined SHH 12 years ago, said of the hospital, “We’re the little hospital that does, and we do a lot of things very, very well.”
He said when he joined SHH he was impressed with how many things the hospital does well.
“It’s one thing to recognize that you’re in an organization that does well, but it’s a completely different thing to have the data to prove it.”
He said with the help of administration, staff and patients, the hospital has conducted research and demonstrated that SHH is “a rural academic centre of excellence, and this award validates that because they accredit hospitals across the country.”
Milne said he isn’t aware of another hospital of SHH’s size to receive such an award for conducting research.
“There might be large, urban university hospitals that get these awards — that’s their job. But we get an award for documenting and demonstrating the excellent care we provide.”
Milne said SHH does about six research projects a year through partnership with Western University (the Southwestern Ontario Medical Education Network) and the Gateway Rural Health Research Institute in Seaforth.
Such research projects are published and a recent project on procedural sedation in rural emergency departments landed the team on the cover of the “Canadian Journal of Rural Medicine.” The research looks at how patients with painful injuries are cared for.
Milne said SHH has recently been approached by Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital which is interested in SHH’s expertise on rural pain management.
“We’re really, really proud of the care we provide,” Milne said, adding the recent award from Accreditation Canada validates the work SHH does and is a great way to recruit physicians and other health care providers to a small community like Exeter.
“They can come to a rural community and have a rewarding career and be lifelong learners,” Milne said of health care professionals who come to SHH. Milne said he has multiple requests on a regular basis from physicians requesting to work at SHH.
“They are coming to us,” he said, adding that it’s a trend that has been growing the last couple of years. While before, SHH had to go looking for doctors to fill the hospital’s schedule, now physicians are approaching Milne for shifts.
He said if a community hospital creates a culture that allows physicians to thrive and grow, doctors will want to work there.
“Rural people deserve the same great care no matter where they live,” Milne said, crediting all staff in the hospital.
Pfaff said the staff is proud of the recent award from Accreditation Canada.
“It does take a team to provide excellent care.”
McNeilly added, “We as a board recognize that our people are the most appreciable asset of this organization.”