The Board Chair for Southern Health says COVID-19 has been profoundly impactful on our health facilities, on society and in our personal habits. Yet, Abe Bergen says not all of its impacts are negative.

In reflecting back on 2020, Bergen says one of the highlights was what the regional health authority was able to achieve through technology, because of COVID-19.

"How many of us are more comfortable today with either Teams or Zoom or whatever other platforms for board meetings or for committee meetings or you name it, we're doing that much more often," says Bergen.

Not only that, but Bergen says technology has also changed health care services, noting virtual visits with doctors are the result of innovation during this period of COVID-19.

And, even though 2020 was a challenging year with the pandemic, Bergen says their regional finances continue to track within budget.

"What I see firsthand is our VP Finance and his team working throughout the ranks to ensure that we live within our means and that we are still innovative within our means and that continues to be the case," adds Bergen.

Also, related to the pandemic, Bergen says a highlight was delivering coffee and donuts as a way of encouraging front line staff at all hospitals and personal care homes in the region.

Bergen says another highlight in 2020 happened when the provincial government announced that dialysis services would be coming to Steinbach.

"We haven't operationalized that yet and there is still a lot of work to do in terms of bringing that program to Steinbach," he says. "But, certainly that is a really, really good sign."

Bergen says he believes the dialysis announcement is consistent with the overall health transformation which the province has been working on.

"The intent is to meet the needs of patients closer to home," he says. "Whether it's family community care, or whether it's programs like CancerCare, renal services, surgeries, minimizing the travel that people from our region need to go to Winnipeg to get those services."

Bergen says another highlight was the expansion project at Rest Haven in Steinbach, which made significant progress in 2020.

Also in 2020, Bergen says one of the highlights was their strong community partnerships. He uses the Bethesda Foundation as an example of a group advocating for Steinbach and area. Bergen also speaks highly of their partnerships with First Nations communities.

Meanwhile, Bergen says the population of Southern Health continues to grow. In fact, he says it is one of the fastest-growing regions in the province. He notes one of their challenges is to ensure that health services are optimal for their communities, in the face of increased population.