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At the Heart of Transformation

December 31, 2020

“The patient will see you now”

Dr. Shawn Young: “We had to move patients all over the building. We moved entire units.”

Dr. Shawn Young started as HSC’s Site Medical Lead on April Fool’s Day, but his first day on the job was far from funny. “That was the day that COVID first really impacted HSC because we had an exposure on a medical unit,” says Dr. Young of the pandemic’s first wave. “We had to move patients all over the building. We moved entire units.”

The days continued to be long and stressful, but Dr. Young took heart from the many examples of colleagues rising to the occasion to provide optimal care. “Our people worked their arses off and were still there to provide emotional support to our patients when families couldn’t visit,” he says.

The days remain long during the second wave of the coronavirus as this report goes to press. The stresses are significant. The challenges are very real. Through it all, though, Dr. Young still sees a silver lining. He sees a hospital system gaining important insights as health care transformation proceeds in Manitoba.

“With COVID, there is a growing acceptance of virtual care, the idea that many appointments with medical professionals can be done through technology,” says Dr. Young, a practising anesthesiologist. “Most people have access to smartphone technology that should allow them to get the help they need from their physician without long waits. We can speed up diagnosis and treatment plans, improve coordination among specialists, and move from a culture of ‘the doctor will see you now’ to ‘the patient will see you now’ as health care providers serve patients more efficiently. Health care providers will have greater access to information which will make our care safer and easier to provide. We will transition from a system that is dependent on fax machines to one that bans them.”

The better use of communications technology is but one important transformation championed and celebrated by Dr. Young. The consolidation of specialty services, such as the recent consolidation of stroke care at HSC, for example, is another important development that will serve Manitobans well.

“As Manitoba’s hospital, HSC is at the heart of this transformation,” says Dr. Young, a graduate of the University of Manitoba. “That is what draws me and many other people to work at HSC.”

Dr. Young has a long track record in health care transformation. He played a key role in centralizing anesthesiology services 12 years ago, improving access at a time when up to 10% of surgeries were cancelled due the lack of an anesthesiologist. And in his last position as the Chief Medical Officer at Victoria General Hospital, he oversaw that facility’s transition to a focus on family medicine, mental health, and short-stay surgery.

“Those were historic changes in health care in Manitoba,” he says. “Change of that magnitude is never easy, even when we know it is right for Manitobans.”

At HSC, he envisions more transformational change in the months and years ahead—change that will be made possible by the HSC Foundation and its donors.

“As an example, I look at the Wilf Taillieu Thoracic Surgery Clinic and Endoscopy Unit that donors funded. We’re now able to do minimally invasive procedures that reduce hospital stays from a week to a day and produce better outcomes,” says Dr. Young. “The Foundation and its donors will be essential partners as we go forward bridging other gaps in care.”

Story initially published in our 2019/2020 annual report.