I’ve blogged before about our outstanding elective surgery successes, where we have succeeded in reducing the waiting time in General Surgery to just five months. Today, I’m joined by our Head of General Surgery, Andrew Connolly, to reflect on yet another achievement in this area.
As the result of a lot of hard work and innovation by a lot of people, we now have just ten patients waiting more than four months for their First Specialist Assessment (FSA) and only 13 patients waiting more than four months for their elective operation in General Surgery. This is an extraordinary achievement that positions us ahead of the national health target and also at the forefront of elective surgery delivery for district health boards in New Zealand.
But as those involved will tell you, it hasn’t happened by accident. There has been an incredible amount of hard work behind the scenes, and everything from schedules, rosters and annual leave balances has been under the microscope in order to get ahead of existing demand while also meeting the demand coming in the door.
There’s no doubt it is a hugely important and gratifying milestone. The sooner someone receives their assessment or treatment, the happier everyone is. For the patient, shortened waiting times usually translates to a better experience and good quality care.
Our challenge now is to maintain the remarkable gains we have made in the face of winter, which is rapidly approaching.
We all know that this season brings with it increased pressure for beds. Alongside staff illness, this often stretches our resources to their limits. It is therefore timely to consider what you can do to help us manage this winter without losing the gains you and your colleagues have worked hard to make. We’d encourage clinicians to get involved in scheduling and the running of their services. This is a legitimate use of your time and can result in real gains and better outcomes for our patients.
There are other things we can all do too, such as taking time to consider our personal and family health, and ensure we are taking the necessary precautions to stay well. This means engaging with your GP, using your annual leave, and seeking help from the Employee Assistance Programme if required.
It also means making sure you get the flu vaccination.
When we reviewed the staff uptake figures for the free influenza vaccination, CM Health was sitting at about 53%. We would really encourage the remaining 47% of us who haven’t yet had the vaccination to do so. It would be really disappointing if factors that are largely preventable, such as flu, undid our hard work and gains from the previous few months.
Unless there is a clinical reason not to, you really have to ask why a health professional wouldn’t take this sensible health precaution to better protect themselves, their family and their patients. Day in and day out, we all go out of our way to protect, care for and help our vulnerable patients. We have a great culture of working together with our colleagues in successful and high-performing teams. Getting a flu vaccination is an extension of both of those roles – it helps prevent us spreading the flu to our vulnerable patients and to colleagues working at our side – and yet only about half of us have chosen to do so so far this year.
Perhaps it’s a bit like smoking or unhealthy eating – we know the right thing to do but all too often put it off. People smoke not because they don’t believe the messages of ill health, but because they don’t think that their next cigarette is going to be the one that gives them cancer. Maybe the reluctance of many staff to get a flu vaccination is another such example. Because we don’t think it’s going to happen to us, or at least happen to us today, we can easily forget it in favour of higher priority issues with more immediate consequences. We’re happy to sanitize the risk.
Whatever the reason, if you haven’t yet had the vaccination, we urge you to reconsider and take advantage of the free programme. It has just been extended until the end of May in the hope that we can meet, or exceed, our target of 65% of staff vaccinated. As you may have seen, our uptake figures are also broken down by division, workforce and workplace so we will be comparing sick leave levels across the organisation as winter progresses to monitor what difference the vaccination has made.
Geraint and Andrew