Where Community is the Best Medicine

Paul Rosebush’s battle with cancer taught him the importance of patient care. A look at how the president and CEO of South Bruce Grey Health Centre is improving care and treatment at the organization’s four rural facilities.

Ten words changed everything. “We found something we need to take a look at,” the doctor said to Paul Rosebush.

At the time, Rosebush was in his late 30s and was about to finish his military service. He had made an appointment to get treated for acid reflux, but instead the doctor found an esophageal tumour near his stomach. The lethal cancer often kills patients within six months. But since doctors found Rosebush’s tumour early, they saved his life despite the less than 5 percent expected survival rate.

The whole ordeal made a lasting impact. “The health-care system felt cold and impersonal, and my fight with cancer was the loneliest time of my life,” Rosebush says.

It’s those memories, however, that drive his work today. Rosebush is the president and CEO of South Bruce Grey Health Centre (SBGHC), a group of four small, rural hospitals in Ontario. Since accepting the position in 2012, Rosebush has implemented a strategic plan anchored by a positive patient experience. “Everyone in our hospitals needs to make sure each patient feels important and knows that their needs will be met,” he says. “In our rural hospitals, we make time to communicate because communication has power to heal just like medicine does.”

Rosebush was born and raised in a small town where he learned the value of family, church, and community from his parents. A 20-year military career took him to destinations like Rwanda and Bosnia as a commissioned social-work officer in the health-services branch of the Canadian Forces. Upon his military retirement, Rosebush turned his passion for service into a second career when he stepped in as executive director at a large social-services agency. Subsequently, he served as CEO of a large health authority and then at an integrated health and community-services agency, where he implemented progressive and innovative health-care programs and facility-sustainability strategies.

Those experiences made Rosebush uniquely qualified to help SBGHC become the best rural health-care institution in Ontario—providing leading medical care as well as community outreach. Rosebush wants to make each of SBGHC’s four hospitals more effective, efficient, and responsive. To meet that goal, he’s working to create a culture of openness and transparency in the hospital and community. Internally, that means sharing information—the data and reasons behind decision-making—through various channels such as its intranet. Externally, Rosebush meets with leaders in government and academia and participates in various community meetings to influence public policy and gather public support. “A rural hospital has to meet the actual needs of the community, so it’s important for me to get out there, talk to people, and find out what those who live here really need in a hospital,”
Rosebush says.

After meeting with local stakeholders, Rosebush discovered that irritants such as gate locations, facility signage, and food choices were creating access challenges and patient dissatisfaction. He used feedback from those meetings to relocate gates and create a new access plan at all four hospital sites as well as change and improve the food choices for patients. In addition, his administration implemented a redevelopment plan for SBGHC’s Kincardine, Ontario, hospital and is focusing on further access improvements and infrastructure development at all locations.

With funding low in a flat economy, Rosebush is turning his attention to SBGHC’s core service mandate. “People are looking for health-care organizations to provide leadership and solve challenges that our communities face,” Rosebush says. “We need to stand up and say what our community needs and help them get it. Leaders have to build the connections in the community so that their needs go forward and people can access great care and excellent services.”

Nobody likes getting sick, but by understanding the real needs of a community, Rosebush and his team are improving the patient experience for those that visit a SBGHC facility.