Job Shadow – Waterloo Wellington Aphasia Program

Guest Blog: Chief Strategy Officer  – Toni Lemon 


One of the most inspiring opportunities we have at the LHIN is getting out and seeing the benefits of the work underway to improve local health care through the eyes of the patient. It is really a privilege to meet with front-line staff to see first-hand what they do and to be able to personally share in the experiences of residents.

This summer, I joined Antonella, a speech language pathologist (SLP), and Jenny, a communications disorders assistant (CDA), at one of the Waterloo Wellington Aphasia Program sessions. Aphasia is a disorder that affects language and communication. It is caused by damage to the brain, most usually from stroke. Some people with aphasia have difficulty with speaking, listening, hearing and/or writing. The group offers a place where residents with aphasia can develop their communication skills with the help of people like Antonella and Jenny.

Patient Centred Care from Providers and Residents

I was immediately struck by the feeling of camaraderie and support in the room. The participants and staff have created a safe space to talk about struggles, practice new skills, and support one another. When a member struggled in telling their story, they were met with patience and sometimes encouraged with strategies to help. Successes and milestones were celebrated and everyone had patience, empathy and an eagerness to learn from one another.

Stroke care in Waterloo Wellington has been changing through integration and collaboration. Providers across the system are working together to ensure that all residents are able to access high-quality stroke care and rehabilitation – no matter where they had their stroke. Patients are going home healthier and with better ability sooner. This work is why Waterloo Wellington was identified by the Ontario Stroke Network as a provincial leader in stroke care.

The Aphasia Program in particular supports people after they leave the hospital. Communication is so vital to the human experience and life participation. Programs like these can bring back quality of life and limit isolation.

Thank you to Antonella and Jenny from the Waterloo Wellington Aphasia Program for sharing your passion and work with me. Thank you also to the group members for sharing your experiences, challenges and resilience with me. You are an inspiration.


For more information on the Waterloo Wellington Aphasia Program click here.


Story Circle and Job Shadow – Langs Community Health Centre, Cambridge


This week is Community Health and Wellbeing Week – as an organization focused on improving the health and well-being of local residents it’s an important one for us to celebrate along with our four Waterloo-Wellington Community Health Centres

As part of this week’s celebration, I had the opportunity to visit Langs Community Health Centre in Cambridge to participate in a story circle.

We sat there somewhat nervously – a group of patients, board members and a colleague of mine. We were asked to share what Langs meant to us. To actively listen and connect with one another through our stories. Some came with notes, some more comfortable sharing than others. The circle was expertly facilitated by a Langs Board Member who has a gift for storytelling and putting others at ease.

Once we started, the feeling in the room shifted and we became like old friends reminiscing, rather than strangers meeting for the first time. I was struck by the bravery and authenticity of the participants and even more struck by their stories. We had all come from different places, had all faced different challenges, and yet all shared connections with the heroes in local health care and how they had impacted our lives.

This is the power of storytelling. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you come from, or what you do – we are all patients and we all have a story. My goal as the CEO of the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network is to make more of our health stories positive ones. It’s a goal that is shared by many of the health professionals working in our community and was clearly demonstrated by the staff at Langs during my visit.

Following the story circle, one of the participants invited me to join him for his doctor’s appointment. There, I witnessed first-hand the positive difference that comprehensive primary care makes. The doctor took the time to discuss not only his patient’s medical concerns, but the other factors in his life that influence health (things like income and social supports). This is so important to improving overall health and for this patient, this holistic approach has rebuilt his trust in health care.

Thank you to Langs for inviting me to participate – it’s a real reminder of why I do what I do – and thank you for everything you do to improve the health and well-being of our local community.


Job Shadow – Grandview Medical Centre, Cambridge

Guest Blog: Chief Strategy Officer and Interim CEO – Toni Lemon


Getting out and watching front line health care in action is an important way that we connect with patients and providers across Waterloo Wellington. Earlier this week, I was privileged to join the staff at the Grandview Medical Centre Family Health Team in Cambridge and share in their experience providing care. Grandview is a multi-disciplinary team of 16 family physicians, over 20 nurses, nurse clinicians, registered dieticians, pharmacists, social workers, support staff, health promoters, as well as a mental health team. Onsite services at Grandview include chiropody, diagnostic imaging, pharmacy, a vascular clinic, memory clinic and much more. Primary care is critically important in shaping the health of people in our communities. Timely access to care, support and education to manage illnesses and chronic diseases and connections to specialists when needed are some of the ways that our primary care providers work to provide patient-centered care.

I joined Dr. Anil Maheshwari for a couple of his afternoon patient visits. One patient who required a diagnostic x-ray was able to pop downstairs to quickly have this done. Instead of writing a requisition for his patient to take with her to make an appointment for the test on another day, she was simply sent to the x-ray clinic located in the same building. This allowed Dr. Maheshwari to receive the results electronically almost instantly and he and his patient could determine a course of action, right there during the same appointment. I also heard from patients and physicians about the value of the electronic communication that has been used at Grandview. Use of a web portal, and email allows for faster communication, less anxiety and better patient and provider experience for many.

Later in the afternoon, I spent some time with Grandview’s on-site diabetes education group. This is a group of patients that meet with their physician, a nurse and each other a few times each year to discuss their test results, learn new information, share care tips and support with each other. Participants choose the topics or issues that are important to them for upcoming sessions and staff prepare with education, resources and tips. Patients said the group helps them feel like they are not alone and isolated in managing their diabetes and it allows staff to provide quality care to more patients, faster.

This is patient-centered care.

The team at Grandview Medical Family Health Team have developed partnerships and services that gather the services that patients need most in one location, with easy access. We know that not all patients and primary care providers have been able to develop this. Enhancing equity across Waterloo Wellington and learning from the experience of patients, physicians, allied professionals and staff at places like Grandview is an important part of continuing to build high quality, accessible care for all residents in Waterloo Wellington.

Thank you to all of the staff and patients at Grandview for sharing your time with me. It was a fantastic visit.



Celebrating Nurses Week


Guest Blog: Chief Strategy Officer and Interim CEO – Toni Lemon

We love celebrating the work of health care staff on the front-lines – those that provide direct support and care to the residents in our communities – and Nurses’ Week is a great opportunity to do that. This year, we decided to celebrate Nurses Week in a bit of a different, hands on type of way.

I was privileged to shadow Marie, one of the nurse practitioners at the Waterloo Region Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic (WRNPLC), Kitchener location. Staff at the clinic were proud to provide a tour of the bright spacious treatment areas, highlighting the interdisciplinary health professionals that clinic patients are able to access including a dietitian, social worker and other supports.

Patient centred care that is truly patient centred

I joined Nurse Practitioner Marie as she completed a patient intake assessment with a new patient. I was particularly impressed by the way Marie took time to truly connect with the new patient to gain a detailed understanding of his health needs, lifestyle, how his occupation as a fireman could impact his health – even the needs of his family.

When we look at the vital role that primary care plays in helping residents maintain health and well-being and prevent illness, it is clear that it is not only the provision of care but the quality of the relationship that exists between provider and patient that has great impact.

I also spent some time with the other staff at the clinic and they shared how their care model is providing better and more comprehensive care for patients. They often use technology like videoconferencing, to connect patients with additional care and education and their social worker links patients with other supportive services such as the food bank and financial supports.

Over the next year, some of the work we will be doing will help to ensure that Waterloo Wellington residents are able to access primary care when they need it, and that all primary care providers have the community, health and social services partners that they need to support their patients. The Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic is a shining example of how collaboration with other providers helps to improve their patients’ overall health and well-being.

Thank you to the staff and patients of the WRNPLC for their candidness and patience, for taking the time to show us their world and how they support the health and wellness of our residents every day. Thank you to all of the nurses who make a difference in the lives of residents, every day; happy Nurses Week.


The Best Part of My Role (and Likely Yours Too)


Getting out and meeting with residents is hands down the most important and best part of my role in local health care leadership. I enjoy hearing people’s stories, learning about what health care services matter most and discovering where we, as a health system, could be doing a better job of supporting health and well-being.

Here at the LHIN, and across health care, we talk a lot about the patient experience and providing patient-centred care. It’s at the heart of everything we, and everything front-line clinicians, staff and volunteers do every day. The best way we can improve the patient experience and provide truly patient-centred care in Waterloo Wellington is by understanding the needs of local residents – through genuine engagement with the people who live, work, receive and provide health services here.

On March 30th, Joan and I were honoured to have the chance to participate in the Mayors for Meals event hosted by Community Support Connections – Meals on Wheels and More (CSC-MOW).

The event brings together local Mayors and other community leaders to support the meals on wheels program and to thank the hundreds of volunteers who make, prepare and deliver 350 meals to residents who need them each and every day.

We were given the unique opportunity to ride along with volunteers to hear first-hand how much this service means to them. I was particularly inspired by the stories of two residents I met.

First, we delivered a meal for Carl, who lives in supportive housing at Waterloo Regional Homes for Mental Health (WRHMH). At WRHMH, Carl also receives support from the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) team. The ACT team is a multi-disciplinary team that provides intensive case management and support to individuals with severe and persistent mental health concerns. To better serve Carl, CSC and WRHMH partnered to arrange for his meals to be delivered to him by a member of the ACT team. This allows the meals to be delivered at a time that works for Carl and ensures the ACT team is aware of his eating habits and preferences – wrap around care that helps to keep him on track. This is what collaboration and service integration is all about – connecting the dots to better serve the community. 

We also met Arthur, another local resident who receives meals each week. Arthur has a physical disability and sometimes has difficulty opening packaging. To improve Arthur’s meal delivery experience, there are instructions for the driver to open the milk when they drop off his meals. It seems simple, but this tiny gesture makes a huge difference to Arthur and the way he experiences his care. It’s these extra, patient-centred efforts that can take good care and make it great!

I really appreciated seeing the great work being done at CSC-MOW through the eyes of our residents and was reminded of the importance of taking the time to participate in these kinds of events. As local health system and community leaders, it is critical that we remember why we come to work every day – to support the health and well-being of residents – and how important these services are to those we serve.

Take a look at your calendar, find a block of time (or make one) and get out and talk to people. Talk to residents, talk to a front-line provider, talk to a new community organization. I promise you it will be the best part of your week.




Lead Together Waterloo Wellington: Have Your Say! – Help Us Strengthen Patient Centred Health Care

Screen Shot 2016-02-12 at 1.35.32 PM

Dr. Eric Hoskins, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, has released a discussion paper titled Patients First: A Proposal to Strengthen Patient Centered Health Care in Ontario. The paper underscores the need for significant transformation to address a series of gaps in our health system.

The proposal includes improving access to primary care, standardizing and strengthening home and community care, stronger linkages with public health and ensuring that services are distributed more equitably across the province. It outlines a plan for the future direction of health care in Ontario that will see residents benefitting from an integrated, patient-centered system to ensure better health outcomes.

The paper outlines proposed structural and operational changes that will transform the way health services are delivered in our local communities. A common thread throughout the plan points to Ontario’s LHINs taking a larger role to provide further oversight and accountability for more health service providers and ensure greater focus on population health and the overall well-being of our communities.

What does the Ministry’s proposal mean for residents of Waterloo Wellington and local health service providers? It means that as we work with our partners to plan and fund local health services, we will be better positioned to further integrate services across the entire system. It means more coordinated care. It means better patient experiences. It means not having to tell your story more than once. Most importantly, it means better health and a better quality of life for you and your family.

Have Your Say!

The Ministry has provided us with a picture of the future for health care and now it’s your turn. The Discussion Paper includes a number of questions on how to successfully plan for and implement the proposed approach. They are looking for input from all of us – local residents, front line health service providers, community leaders – we all have the opportunity to provide advice on how to make the Ontario health system truly patient-centred.

I encourage you to provide input. Visit our website where you will find information, links to the Discussion Paper, and the online form to submit feedback. There we will also be posting information about local engagement events. Feedback is being received until the end of February.

On a personal note, a special thanks to everyone for all you do each and every day in our community.  Whether you are a local resident, someone who works in health care, or someone who just chanced upon my blog, thank you for your interest in improving the health and well-being of local residents. To you and the people you care about, have a wonderful Family Day Weekend!

Why Equity in Our Health System Matters

Lead Together Waterloo Wellington: Why equity in our health system matters

I hear a lot about how the health care experience and health outcomes aren’t the same for ALL residents of Waterloo Wellington. Not all people have the same starting point when it comes to health.

Those who are most vulnerable, marginalized and who experience barriers within our system may have equal access but they certainly don’t have equal outcomes because of a variety of factors including determinants of health like income, education, employment and access to nutritious food.

Our vision is for all our residents to have better health and a better future, not just some of our residents.

To do this, we need to focus on equity and we need to understand that equity is much different than equality.


This graphic is an excellent example of the difference between the two. Simply equity is about all about making sure everyone has the opportunity to experience the same good health outcomes.

Let me tell you more about this through a story.


Rami is 35 years old and has recently immigrated to Canada. When Rami arrived in Canada from the Middle East, he was emotionally lost and destroyed.

In his home country he had endured so many years of violence through war, persecution and even incarceration because of his sexual orientation. The situation was so difficult that he had developed post-traumatic stress disorder. He had lost all hope and was unsure of how his sexual orientation would be received by the health professionals he was seeing.

“When I came to Canada, I felt like a zero as a person.”

Rami also speaks mostly Arabic, which made getting the health care services he needed even more difficult.

Imagine yourself in Rami’s shoes. You have just come to a new country, you are suffering from a serious mental health concern and you don’t know where to turn for help. When you do find care, it is difficult to communicate with your health service providers and you are unsure they truly understand you.

Although Rami had access to care, because of his language barrier and anxiety around his health service provider’s acceptance of his sexuality, he did not have the opportunity to experience the same health outcomes as someone without those concerns.

And that is what health equity is really all about – ensuring everyone, no matter who they are or where they live, has the opportunity to experience the same good health and well-being.

Through a partnership between Carizon and the Waterloo Wellington CMHA , Rami was connected to services as soon as possible and was able to get the help he needed. Over time, Rami built trust with his care providers and was able to start recovering. Rami credits his positive experience to the fact that the care coordinator at CMHA was able to provide him services in his preferred language and in a way that was supportive of his cultural beliefs and sexual orientation.

In Rami’s own words, “As a refugee, this kind of collaboration is crucial because without that support it’s almost impossible to survive,” says Rami. “People shouldn’t fall through the cracks. They didn’t give up on me. Now I feel like I am at 75 per cent and I can start giving back to my community.”

This story has a good outcome – but at what cost?

Rami suffered for a long time alone and isolated – not aware of what supports there were in the community. If more of our health services were designed to support those who face health inequities and if more organizations partnered to create programs to support people like Rami, he may have received care faster.

Addressing health equity is not just the responsibility of one organization. It is the responsibility of each of us, The LHIN, health service providers, our community partners, you and me.

We take the obligation to improve population health and health equity very seriously but we cannot make real change by doing things the same old way. As a health system, we need to innovate and collaborate to make measurable improvements in the overall health of our community by addressing inequities in our system.