Audit indicates big strides for CKHA rebuild

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health stethoscope

A third-party review of operations at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance has given the current overseers the green light – well, sort of, at least.

KPMG conducted an internal control framework assessment, comparing the state of the health alliance seven months ago to where it is today. The starting point is when the province appointed Rob Devitt as supervisor of the alliance to rebuild the battered and dysfunctional health-care operation. He arrived after the three hospital boards could no longer work together, and governance of the alliance came to a standstill.

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Devitt appointed Ken Deane as interim CEO shortly after his arrival last fall. The two began work on improving operations at the alliance.

The study shows a great deal of progress. But Devitt said he and Deane didn’t do anything Herculean.

“Nothing we are doing is out of the ordinary,” Devitt said. “It’s just good, old common sense.”

KPMG’s study actually shocked the two in terms of how bad overall the starting point actually was. They admitted they knew there were problems when they stepped into their respective roles, but just didn’t realize the extent.

Deane said the sheer number of issues the alliance had when they took over caught him off guard when he first saw the KPMG report.

“I’m not surprised there were red Xs. I was surprised at the number of gaps,” he said.

KPMG assessed core corporate controls in areas of ethics and values, governance, human resources, general information technology, finance and strategic planning and budgeting. Red lights lit up the board.

The study used a simple colour system – with red being the worst and green the best, to grade specific principles. A red light with an X in it indicated a critical gap that required prompt attention. Orange showed a priority gap; yellow a minor gap; and green a sound operational management practice.

KPMG’s assessment of the overall operations seven months ago, citing 15 categories, showed no green lights. In fact, there were just two yellows and three oranges; the rest – 10 areas – were lit up in red.

The two categories in yellow were control activities, specifically selection and development of controls over technology, and deployment through policies and procedures.

Devitt admitted the starting point was tough to swallow.

“When I looked at it, I was really disappointed. But it helped me frame why we had to do so much,” he said. “As for the progress, I’m very pleased. It speaks to a very competent team in the organization. But I now worry we are actually pushing people too hard.”

The progress, as Devitt mentioned, is evidenced by the fact not one category showed red in February. There were also only four orange areas. Two formerly red areas – internal communications and evaluation of activities – showed green. Nine areas were yellow.

KPMG’s reviewers were impressed.

“Overall, CKHA has made significant improvements over the past six months, particularly with respect to rebuilding the tone at the top, increasing communication to employees and the community, transparent reporting of financial results, and improving communications with the board,” the report stated.

Where previous hospital overseers were less than forthcoming with the delivery of information to the public, and, according to KPMG, even staff, Devitt and Deane encourage open dialogue. They’ve made community engagement a priority, holding open forums and speaking to service clubs, for example.

“It’s about connecting citizens with the new leaders,” Devitt said. “It is important our citizenry feels connected with the leadership.”

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