CEO steers IH in new direction

Quality of care has been taking precedence over bean-counting in Interior Health since Dr. Robert Halpenny took over the helm.

Faces of health care: Susan Brown

Faces of health care: Susan Brown

Quality of care has been taking precedence over bean-counting in Interior Health since Dr. Robert Halpenny took over the helm.

Quick to point out that fiscal responsibility continues to be high on the health region’s priority list, Peter du Toit, director of acute care services for the Thompson-Cariboo-Shuswap region, says there has been a definite change in direction.

“The world of IH has changed substantially under Dr. Halpenny,” says du Toit. “It’s a lot more open and he involves the doctors more, maybe because he’s a doctor, he looks at things from a quality lens as well.”

Du Toit offered his assessment following a Sept. 4 visit to Shuswap Lake General Hospital, accompanied by IH board chair Norm Embree.

Halpenny says he makes it a point to visit every health region site once a year to better understand the needs of individual facilities, meet with staff, medical staff, elected officials and members of volunteer organizations such as the hospital foundation and auxiliary.

Halpenny said he is impressed with the friendly ambiance at Shuswap Lake Hospital, the approachable staff and the level of commitment shown by staff and doctors.

In response to a question about when construction would begin on Phase 3 of the hospital’s re-development plan, du Toit explained that IH continually assess the roles of individual sites, through prioritization lists.

“We didn’t make it to the top 10 this year,” he said.

Embree noted that every health authority in the province submits their priority lists, which the government then has to sort through.

“We do our best we can to spread the resources around,” he said.

In terms of long-term care patients taking up acute-care beds, du Toit says the need for more long-term care beds was recognized and is being addressed by 72 additional beds in the new Mt. Ida Mews.

The facility, which is due to open sometime in October, will be operated by InSite Health.

“They already have facilities in Kelowna, they’re a very good partner,” du Toit says, noting people are always given the option of going to one of the public-private partnership facilities or the IH-run Bastion Place.

In the imaging department, ultrasound wait lists are expected to shrink with the hiring of a new ultrasound technician.

Pleased with his visit to Salmon Arm, Halpenny said the fact a number of doctors attended the noon-hour meeting to share their issues and “a considerable number of kudos,” was encouraging.

Also of importance to Salmon Arm residents is the new medical school in Kelowna, which is expected to improve recruitment and retention in the region, the new cardiac care service in Kelowna and the HART team, which is able to respond quickly to dire medical emergencies.

“It was a courtesy visit to see how things are going in the facilities they own and to find out if there are burning issues they need to address,” said radiologist John Wickert, following the meeting. “I think it’s good to have the CEO come around.”

Halpenny joined Interior Health as the senior medical director in 2007. He was appointed president and CEO in January 2010.

He completed his family practice residency in 1982 after completing numerous clinical rotations in Kelowna before opening a practice in Vancouver.

He completed his masters degree in health administration from the University of Colorado and worked in the state as vice-president of medicine.

He returned to Canada in 2002 as the vice-president of medicine for Fraser Health prior to accepting a position of provincial executive director of cardiac services for the Provincial Health Services Authority.