By Sandra Kary
In Catholic health, quality, trust are first cousins
In previous articles, I’ve endeavoured to offer a broad picture
of Catholic health — its history, scope of ministry, key components
of mission, ethics and spiritual care, and the current landscape of Catholic
health facilities and key stakeholders in Saskatchewan. Another critical
component to the picture is that of quality care.
The following is my conversation with Karen Barber, Executive Lead, Quality
and Strategic Planning for the Catholic Health Ministry of Saskatchewan.
Q: Welcome Karen! Can you share a bit about your background and your
current position with CHMS?
A: Prior to joining the CHMS in October 2010, I served as Director of
Quality Improvement with Saskatchewan’s Health Quality Council
(HQC). While at the HQC, I studied with the Institute for Healthcare
Improvement in Boston, co-led a provincial Chronic Disease Management
Collaborative and collaborated to develop health care training programs
in Saskatchewan for quality improvement consulting and board leadership
As a physical therapist with a master’s degree in community health
and epidemiology, I have taught classes in professional issues at the
University of Saskatchewan and was founding director of the Continuing
Physical Therapy Education program. Currently, I am a Clinical Associate
Professor with the School of Physical Therapy and an elected member of
the board of directors for the Canadian Physiotherapy Association.
In my role as Executive Lead, Quality and Strategic Planning for the
Catholic Health Ministry of Saskatchewan, my work focuses on effective
board governance and leadership for high quality care.
As you know, the CHMS is a corporation of the bishops of Saskatchewan,
and is committed to the healing and caring ministry of Jesus Christ.
The CHMS owns/sponsors 11 of the 15 acute and long-term care facilities
across the province.
Every CHMS health care facility has a local board of directors with a
direct responsibility to govern and oversee quality and safety of patient
care in that facility. Boards set the tone and strategic direction for
their organizations — it is important for boards to understand
what the facility does well and where it needs to improve.
This model of local governance provides opportunity to engage and hear
directly from the people and communities we serve. In my role, I support
and coach boards of directors in the CHMS family to ask important questions,
identify needs in their communities and lead for quality in their organizations.
Q: For those who are unfamiliar with the world of health
care, can you define in everyday language what “quality” means
in the context of delivering health care services?
A: Everyone can imagine or can remember a time when they experienced
exceptionally high quality service or care. It might have been in a hospital,
or at a restaurant, or even at a local department store. What made that
experience exceptional, what made it “high quality” for you?
Timely service? Being understood and responded to with respect and compassion?
Knowing there’s a team that is sensitive to your needs, and will
help to the best of their ability to include you in decisions that will
affect you? At the very least, you likely expect safe, competent care
for yourself and your loved ones as a basic quality requirement. Health
care environments can be complex, and errors can happen despite the best
efforts and intentions of safe, competent staff. Leaders have an important
role to play in setting the tone and creating a culture where staff identify
problem areas, work together to solve quality and safety issues and deliver
the exceptional care that we all would want for ourselves and our loved
Q: What is the difference, if any, between providing quality care within
a public, regional context, and a Catholic setting?
A: When it comes to providing quality care, or “quality” in
terms of the way in which we provide care, that shouldn’t look
any different between health care facilities. I would hope to receive
the same kind of respectful, compassionate care in the hands of a health
care provider in any facility. Organizational values should guide our
actions as we deliver care. Each of our facilities has an established
mission, vision and values, set by their governing boards and approved
by the Saskatchewan Catholic bishops who are members of our corporation.
Everyone working in Catholic health care is called upon to live these
values as part of the best possible care we provide for the people we
Q: Does quality (or established standards) differ between an acute or
long-term care setting? Or regions?
A: Accreditation Canada has established standards for acute and long-term
care facilities for quality of care and patient safety, as well as for
governance of health care facilities. Saskatchewan health care regions
and facilities observe these standards and our facilities participate
in the accreditation process along with the health regions in which they
Q: What would you like to tell those who are in the delivery
of health care services about quality care, that you don’t think
they truly understand, or need to hear at this time?
A: The more we can involve patients, residents and families
in our work to improve care, the better we will understand what needs
to be done, and how we can collaboratively go about doing what needs
to be done. If we can listen and work together with compassion, respect
and trust, quality will be the journey and not the destination.
Q: How can quality care from a Catholic health care perspective positively
impact the landscape of care in our province?
A: Our Catholic health care facilities are part of the
network that is the Saskatchewan health care system. People of Saskatchewan
hope to move through the health system, when they need to, in a way that
is supported, safe, seamless, respectful and caring. We can contribute
to system design and processes that will support this type of health
care experience for all persons in the province. We can do this in part
by ensuring we have strong relationships with all partners in the health
system and working together for system redesign. All of this is predicated
on listening closely to the needs of people in our communities and their
experiences in the health care system. Catholic health care was conceived
in response to a need — a calling to meet the needs of the poor
and most vulnerable. We have a long legacy of listening, understanding
and responding to changing needs in our society. This will continue to
positively impact the landscape of care in our province.
Q: Any final comments?
A: Don Berwick, past president & CEO of the Institute for Healthcare
Improvement once said, “Quality and trust are first cousins.” Building
trust and relationships will support quality in health care. We do our
best work in environments where there is a strong foundation of trust.
In health care, this translates at the bedside to relationship-based
care, building relationships with the people who need and seek our services.
We seek to build high functioning teams and relationships at every level,
between and among staff, leaders, boards, government, organizations,
providers and the people we serve throughout the system. Quality is everyone’s
job and everyone has an important role to play. It starts with each of
us individually, willing to work together for the common good.
To learn more about the Catholic Health Ministry of Saskatchewan, including
its mission, vision, values, quality framework and strategic plan visit
Kary is executive director for the Catholic Health Association of Saskatchewan.