New president of LHSC defends London's record on health care

The new president and CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre laughs when hears London described as the “ground zero for problems in our health care system.” Dr. Paul Woods says the city has its share of problems, but in some areas it’s actually “the best in the province.”

“London has it share of challenges [but] many things we do very well,” says Dr. Paul Woods

Dr. Paul Woods, president and CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre, says the solution to healthcare issues is not always more beds or people. He's an advocate of new population-based funding models. (Colin Butler/CBC News)

The new president and CEO of the London Health Sciences Centre, Dr. Paul Woods, laughs when hears London described as the "ground zero for problems in our healthcare system."

The assertion was made by NDP leader Andrea Horwath on a recent visit to the city.

In an interview on London Morning Wednesday, Woods struggled to stifle laughter when host Julianne Hazlewood asked him to comment on Horwath's headline-grabbing quote.

"You know, London has its shares of challenges, and to be clear … some of our wait times and that sort of thing are absolutely the worst in the province," he said.

But Woods added: "Many things we do very well, and in some of them we actually are the best in the province."

The Ontario-born physician came to London after working 23 years in the US medical system, and says the city's women's health program is "the best in Canada and … probably one of the best in the world."

Woods says it's not fair to characterize London as the poster child of all that is wrong with the province's healthcare system. He says he's familiar with the challenges of some of his colleagues who run large academic medical centres across the province, "and they struggle with pretty much the same thing."

He says he's not happy with problems such as ambulance off-load times and occupancy challenges in London, but said LHSC is 'absolutely committed' to fixing them.

Change funding system

Woods says the answer to healthcare issues is "not always more beds or more people". He believes this traditional method of funding is going in the wrong direction. Instead, he thinks it needs to be more population-based.

"If you look at progressive systems in terms of how they are rearranging funding, it's around episodes of care – whether it be a single episode like a hip replacement … or populations of people over the course of a year and all their intersections with the healthcare system," said Woods.

Woods says this doesn't relate just to Ontario but to the national level, as well.

"How do we change funding to be more effective in producing better health for patients, a better care experience, a lower per capita cost?"

Mental healthcare challenges

On the subject of mental healthcare, Woods says that despite systemic struggles to cope with a rising population of patients, the area holds "great opportunity and a great path to get better."

He was responding to concerns recently raised by psychiatrists at LHSC. In March, they wrote the board of directors, saying "there has not been a time in recent history when the physician body has felt so disconnected from hospital leadership. It has become an extremely dysfunctional system and patient care, including access and flow, is suffering."

Woods said he has responded by introducing a new leadership model and acknowledged that he needs to do a better job of incorporating the voices of psychiatrists in hospital decisions.

He said LHSC is looking at creating a total system of care.

"I think that's ultimately going to be the salvation of mental healthcare in Southwestern Ontario," said Woods.

The system will include not only five additional psychiatrists but support professionals, such as social workers and general physicians who can also contribute to care.

Woods said he predicts dramatic changes in the delivery of mental healthcare at LHSC within six months.

Listen to the London Morning interview here.