It also allows us to reflect on events that, at the time of this publication, seem like they occurred a decade ago, not months ago, given the new reality we faced as the fiscal year closed.
The COVID-19 pandemic will long be remembered as a period in world history when society truly seemed to come to a shocking standstill. For our health care institutions, of course, no one was standing still - in fact, our thousands of employees and professional staff put in countless hours in preparing for the unknown and making sure we put the necessary precautions, policies and practices into place to get ready for the worst. Given the events that transpired in hard-hit areas such as New York City, Italy, and a mile away in Detroit, all hospitals are navigating unchartered waters, with the risk of capsizing under the weight of the pandemic - a plausible possibility without societal restrictions in place to reduce that frightening risk.
This annual report reviews the events of April 1st, 2019 to the end of our fiscal year on March 31, 2020. At the end of that period, Windsor-Essex like the rest of Ontario was in "lockdown" with schools and most businesses and workplaces closed, while WRH had the duty to keep functioning in an abruptly new environment to care for an extremely tense and anxious community.
We certainly cannot overstate our pride in how our team at WRH responded to the challenge. However, we also do not want to ignore the other outstanding achievements that were realized throughout the year, lest they be overshadowed by the events that closed the year. As in any year, there were many moments to celebrate, but here are a few we especially don't want to be ignored as we look back at the memorable year that has passed.
The calendar year closed with WRH recognized for its excellence by Accreditation Canada, an independent, not-for-profit organization which for more than half of a century has assessed health care and social services organizations in Canada and around the world.
The Accreditation Canada survey team conducted a thorough assessment of our services during the week of November 24, 2019, evaluating it against some 2615 national standards. The outcome gave WRH an outstanding 99.8% compliance. As a result, WRH was awarded the highest designation possible by Accreditation Canada - Accreditation with Exemplary Standing - for the period 2019-2023. Less than 30% of health care organizations accredited receive this Exemplary Standing designation. We cannot be more proud of the work our staff members do, on a daily basis, to deserve this outstanding recognition.
Back in April 2019, we were delighted by the arrival of our new PET/CT scanner at Windsor Regional Hospital. Hundreds of patients in Windsor and Essex County requiring PET/CT scans to diagnose medical conditions now no longer have to travel hundreds of kilometers to hospitals in London, Hamilton, Mississauga, and elsewhere for these state-of-the-art patient images.
The arrival of the PET/CT scans - long the standard for helping diagnose cancers - supports some 600 patients a year in the Windsor-Essex region and beyond.
Always looking to improve, WRH was also recognized by Choosing Wisely Canada, the national voice for reducing unnecessary tests and treatments in health care, with a Level 1 Certification. With this designation, WRH is now part of a worldwide movement that promotes best practice by reducing unnecessary testing and treatments for our patients. It all means avoiding potential harm to patients and allowing the hospital to free up resources for other needs. This is the first of three levels of Certification offered by Choosing Wisely Canada and work is already underway on reaching Level 2 Certification.
We were excited to collaborate with local partners for the launch of the new WE-SPARK Health Institute. Four institutions - Windsor Regional Hospital, the University of Windsor, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, and St. Clair College - formalized the partnership that had been a decade in the making. The collaboration brings together and elevates health research strengths from across the Windsor-Essex region and beyond to establish research pipelines that address regional health issues, advance innovation, and technology, and drive outcomes that support healthier communities.
We believe this initiative, under the watch of Lisa Porter, WE-SPARK's Executive Director, will be a game-changer for research in our region and allow us to showcase the great work conducted in Windsor-Essex to a national stage and beyond.
We appreciate the relationships we have continued to develop with our local representatives from the municipal, provincial, and federal levels.
Provincially, we were fortunate to host a visit by Chatham-Kent Member of Provincial Parliament Rick Nicholls at the beginning of 2020 to show our gratitude for funding to upgrade and repair our facilities. The funding as part of the Ontario government's Health Infrastructure Renewal Fund was a welcome opportunity to invest in our aging buildings while we continue to press forward towards a new hospital for Windsor and Essex County.
We are fortunate to have the support of Rick Nicholls as well as our local MPPs Lisa Gretzky (Windsor-West), Percy Hatfield (Windsor-Tecumseh) and Taras Natyshak (Essex). Collectively and across party lines, these individuals continue to champion our efforts for a new hospital and we look forward to further developments on the project in the year to come.
Certainly, the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted many of the shortfalls in our existing infrastructure - in particular, the lack of private rooms and our inability to cohort many patients as we worked to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission from patient to patient. We remain hopeful of a favouorable outcome to this spring's appeal of the previous year's decision by the Local Planning Appeal Tribunal (LPAT) that supported our chosen location. Windsor-Essex has waited long enough to move forward on this important project and as we have often stated, "We Are Ready" to get going on the next phase of planning.
At the local government level, also backing this project are Windsor Mayor Drew Dilkens, Essex County Warden Gary McNamara, and the vast majority of their councilors who have offered their unequivocal support of our new hospital efforts. We are fortunate to have municipal leaders who truly recognize the opportunity before us to reshape local hospital care for decades to come and the further opportunities a project of this scale can provide.
Federally, we need to recognize Irek Kusmierczyk, Member of Parliament for Windsor-Tecumseh, for his vocal support of our hospital project and also for being of great assistance amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Irek worked closely with WRH to help ensure our team was able to secure sufficient supplies of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and his assistance in navigating these efforts in a highly competitive environment for such supplies was crucial and appreciated.
At year-end, we reported a fiscal surplus of $2.89 million. Coupled with our Accreditation with Exemplary Standing it shows Windsor Regional Hospital is making great progress. However, like all Ontario hospitals, we face an uncertain future given the significant costs associated with preparing for the COVID-19 pandemic. The Government of Ontario has recognized the financial burden on our health care institutions and we remain confident that as a province we will move forward on a path that ensures hospitals continue through the pandemic period with sufficient funds and into the future.
We are grateful to the citizens of Windsor and Essex County for their continued engagement and support in our operations. Special thanks to the Windsor Cancer Centre Foundation and the Windsor Regional Hospital Foundation for their efforts to provide funds that assist in the purchase of essential equipment this past year.
That future, we expect, will look a lot different than it did prior to the realities of COVID-19.
We know that a second wave of the pandemic is possible, and it's why this pandemic will remain an alert on our radar screen for the foreseeable future.
We know that hundreds of postponed surgeries and other procedures have created a backlog that we will make every effort to safely reduce throughout 2020-21.
We know that cost pressures by the government will obligate us, like our hospital peers across Ontario, to do our part to look at how we can do things differently without compromising patient care and staff safety.
We very much miss our hundreds of dedicated volunteers who stayed home as the pandemic planning took hold and we hope to reach a point where they can safely return to provide the compassionate greetings and guidance they always have.
We know that our community remains in a state of anxiety, and expect that anxiety will rise and fall as we analyze data on "the curve" of this pandemic in our area. And our heart aches for those who have lost loved ones, including those who were residents of long-term care homes we have stood beside in support.
Whatever comes, whatever we face, whether this virus fades away or returns with more vigor, our only assurance is that we will be here, ready to face the unknown again and again while caring and comforting a community that needs us.
It's an honour to stand tall to protect our friends, our neighbours, and our family.
It's what our community expects, and it's what our team expects from each other.
Together We Stay Strong
1995 Lens Avenue, Windsor, ON N8W 1L9
1030 Ouellette Avenue, Windsor, ON N9A 1E1