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CPSI Share                                                  
11/8/2012 5:00 PM

​​Good Samaritan Society learning event

Governing quality and safety for various sectors across two provinces can be a challenge. The Good Samaritan Society (GSS) has over 54 sites and programs across Alberta and British Columbia that serve more than 6,000 individuals in complex/long-term care and assisted/supportive living, as well as provides other specialized healthcare services for the elderly and the physically and mentally challenged.

To increase their knowledge and ensure effective governance of quality and safety, the Good Samaritan Society had the Canadian Patient Safety Institute Effective Governance for Quality and Patient Safety (Governance) program customized to encompass a long-term care focus and meet their diverse needs. The program is based on seven drivers that focus on improving quality, performance and patient safety through the use of evidence. The May learning event was delivered to a group of 24 at the Good Samaritan Society, including board members, executive and regional directors of operations.

The GSS wanted to better understand the board’s role in governance. They learned their role is more than fiduciary and it is equally important for the board to spend half of its time on quality and safety within the organization as their core work. The program helped raise awareness of the role and level of engagement needed from the board and how the board can contribute to better results.

During a debriefing session following the learning event, the board and staff talked about what they learned and what was relevant to the GSS.  “It underscored the importance of identifying and reporting performance measures to the board and sharing that information on a regular basis,” says Carla Gregor, GSS CEO.  “This was an affirmation of what we were doing and that it was aligned with what we could and should be doing.”

One of the challenges identified was measurement and ensuring the right measures are selected to report to the board.  “What is quality and how do you find meaningful measures of quality so that you are not overwhelming your stakeholders with too many indicators, but acknowledging those indicators that will make vital improvements in key areas and result in meaningful change?” says Gregor. “In a widely distributed organization such as ours, it is having consistency across programs and sites and ensuring that we have a vehicle to share best practices.  When you are doing good work over 30 of the sites, it can be difficult to share that in a meaningful way.”  The board and staff talked about how they could make use of client stories as an opportunity to highlight achievements and areas for improvement and work that into facilitated discussions at the board level and for the staff as well.

 “The program provided the scope and breadth of what we need to do both operationally and from a board perspective for the effective governance of quality and safety,” says Cheryl Bilous, Vice-President of Operations.  “I found it to be an excellent program and altogether one of the best packages available. We walked away with relevant and timely examples and templates that we can adapt for our use.”

“This program was organized and customized and it is one of the best board experiences that I have been part of,” says Don Storch, the former Board Chair of the Good Samaritan Society. “Everyone has a story and this was a very good way to bring people together to understand one another and build relationships within the board and beyond. This structured time helped the board to better understand some of the operational issues and the kind of things to watch for.”

Storch praises the Governance Toolkit he received at the learning event as an encyclopedia full of useful information. He has been able to use the tools and resources from the manual to ensure effective governance for other boards that he serves on, unrelated to healthcare.

Through the program, the GSS determined that a more effective board mechanism was needed to deal with safety and quality. A board task force has been formed to develop terms of reference for safety and quality to identify roles, responsibilities and membership. A specific board-focused committee is being created to oversee quality and safety within the organization, that is supported by the Vice-President (VP) of Medicine and the VP of Operations, who is responsible for all GSS care programs. The Governance program has also helped bring more clarity to the planning process and raise the level of discussion at the board level and across the organization to ensure a more cohesive and systemic approach to governance, in a more planned and organized way.

The Effective Governance for Quality and Patient Safety program can be tailored for your needs.  For more information on the program visit the Canadian Patient Safety Institute website,