Tom Schonberg has been the President and CEO of Queensway Carleton Hospital (QCH) in Ottawa since 1998. He has played a big part in helping QCH become one of the top medical institutions in Ontario. Now celebrating its 40th anniversary, QCH serves a population of over 400,000 each year. It is the secondary referral centre for the Ottawa region, but its mission is to constantly strive to be first in community care. Schonberg has overseen the transformative change and immense growth of the hospital’s facilities in the past decade that has been a boon to Ottawa’s community, influencing a significant improvement in health and medical treatment in the region.
The hospital now employs 1,900 employees and over 300 physicians on staff. It relies heavily on the help of the community, with 575 volunteers who donated over 45,000 hours of their time last year. Schonberg is quick to credit his team and the staff at the hospital and notes that one of the reasons for the hospital’s growth and continuing success is the commitment of its volunteers. “There are some exceptional people who volunteer their time to help us every day,” says Schonberg. “They really are the soul of this place and we genuinely appreciate their help.”
As for the mechanics of the hospital, QCH has state-of-the-art facilities including: two MRI units, two CT scanners, cutting-edge surgical suites with 10 operating rooms, a 12-bed ICU, a 15-bed dialysis unit, an acute rehabilitation unit and an Emergency Department and Ambulatory Care complex. Schonberg also established the Irving Greenberg Family Cancer Centre as well as the James Beach Health Care Centre.
Schonberg’s latest QCH venture is participation in the Acute Care for the Elderly (ACE) initiative. The ACE program aims to serve the growing elderly population in Canada. It is a collaborative enterprise that includes 18 hospitals across the nation, one of which is the QCH, making it one of the leading institutions for geriatric care in Canada.
About 15 per cent of the city’s population is over the age of 65 and that number is expected to double over the next 20 years.
Schonberg told Ottawa Life that in light of those statistics, “an innovative approach was required in Ottawa when it came to geriatric care. What you don’t want is a risk of overcrowding hospitals especially with an ageing population, so it’s important to be respectful and to provide the appropriate care that is patient focused first.”
Schonberg noted that the cost of health care is a constant concern for any hospital, but it is essential at QCH that these concerns don’t trump proper patient outcomes.
The ACE unit at QCH is scheduled for completion by the fall of 2016.It has 34 beds, an interdisciplinary team to care for the various needs of aging patients, and a homey and comfortable environment.
“ACE is meant to address its patient’s particular needs efficiently so seniors and their families can avoid drawn out hospital stays. We have a plan for discharge that begins upon admission and allows for elderly patients to continue their care in the comfort of their own homes,” says Schonberg.
Another big challenge facing hospitals in Canada has been addressing the increase in mental health admissions. QCH has seen a 30 per cent increase in mental health admissions, a 55 per cent increase in substance abuse visits and a 25 per cent increase in patients diagnosed with mental health issues in the past decade.
Schonberg assures that Queensway Carleton is not shrinking from this challenge and will be there for patients in the community who require help.
“We have a campaign we just launched called Hopes Rising. I am hopeful that our community will support the campaign to raise $5 million to help the hospital continue to serve the growing mental health needs of the city.”
Based on his track record and relationship with the community, it’s probably a sure thing.
** Prior to coming to Ottawa, Schonberg was CEO of Bowmanville Memorial Hospital and Senior Vice-President of Toronto’s Riverdale. In recognition of his contributions to Queensway Carleton Hospital and broader community, he was awarded with the Order of Ottawa in 2014. In 2012, Queensway Carleton was awarded an “Accreditation with Exemplary Standing”, the highest honour given by Accreditation Canada.