Recognized as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2017)
By Richard Yerema and Kristina Leung, Mediacorp Canada Inc. staff editors (Dec 11, 2016)
Here are some of the reasons why Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences was selected as one of Greater Toronto's Top Employers (2017):
- Ontario Shores helps employees plan securely for retirement with contributions to a traditional defined benefit pension plan
- Ontario Shores supports employee efforts to maintain work-life balance through a number of alternative work arrangements including flexible hours, telecommuting and shortened and compressed work week options
- Ontario Shores provides maternity and parental leave top-up payments for employees who are new mothers (to 93% of salary for up to 32 weeks) as well as parental leave top-up for fathers and adoptive parents (to 93% of salary for 15 weeks)
At Ontario Shores, smaller means more nimble
There isn't a shadow of doubt about how Matthew Rico feels about his employer, Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences. "I'm always bragging about where I work," says Rico, a Registered Nurse who joined the staff of the Whitby-based facility in 2011. "There's a wonderful energy in the hospital and every day I wonder what opportunities are waiting for me."
For Rico, one source of that pride is how Ontario Shores continually seeks out and adopts the best evidence-based models of patient care wherever they're found, from Australia to Sweden. He notes that Ontario Shores is a Stage 7 hospital, an internationally recognized designation awarded only to healthcare organizations that have a completely paperless health information system. It's the first hospital in Canada - and the first mental health hospital worldwide - to have reached the top tier in electronic medical records (EMR) adoption.
Having such a secure and standardized paper-free infrastructure has practical implications for both staff and patients. Ontario Shores takes an interdisciplinary approach to providing specialized assessment and treatment services for those living with complex mental illness, so patients may interact with a variety of healthcare and community support workers. With the EMR, each patient's team can share a wealth of timely information, including pharmacy orders, clinical documentation, test results and past treatments.
"It's easy to send and receive reports," explains Rico, who works in the hospital's Assessment and Stabilization Unit, which provides short-term crisis intervention and treatment. "Instead of hard-to-read handwriting, everything is legible. That makes collaborating with my colleagues easier, plus it reduces the risk of errors, which is important for patient safety."
President and CEO Karim Mamdani says Ontario Shores' size helps facilitate its rapid adoption of innovative tools and techniques. "Change can come slowly in large organizations, but when you're smaller you can be extraordinarily nimble," he says. "We were able to take the initiative, implement the best methodologies and execute with success."
Being on the leading edge has intangible benefits as well, Mamdani adds: "There's a great deal of pride that comes with providing fantastic clinical care."
The facility first opened in Whitby in 1919 as the Ontario Hospital for the Insane, an out-of-sight location for the overflow of psychiatric patients from Toronto. Its name, treatment methods and physical environment changed over the years alongside medical advancements and evolving attitudes towards those with mental illness.
The 1996 opening of the current light-filled main building heralded a fresh start. Then in 2009, the hospital adopted its present name; "Ontario" reflects its longstanding role in the province's healthcare system while "Shores," like the landform, represents a safe place.
Today, the centre and five offsite clinics serve some three million residents of eastern and northeastern Toronto, Durham Region and the City of Kawartha Lakes. As well as offering both inpatient and outpatient care, Ontario Shores advances the mental health care system through research, education and advocacy initiatives.
The Whitby site itself has a role in creating a recovery-oriented environment. The scenic grounds beside Lake Ontario offer ample opportunities for relaxation and rejuvenation. There are also recreational facilities indoors, including a yoga studio and bowling alley. Other amenities include a library, two cafeterias and Good Luck Clothing Shop. Items sell for 25 cents apiece so patients hoping to return to work can more easily afford an appropriate outfit.
Staff, who can use the facilities, can also take advantage of numerous opportunities for development and advancement. And in a workplace that can be as challenging as it is rewarding, Mamdani says Ontario Shores' advocacy work makes a noteworthy contribution to staff well-being.
"We work extremely hard to break down barriers and create a sense of community," he says. "It motivates people when they can see the important part they play in the bigger picture."