By Evan McClelland 
BELLEVILLE – The Hastings Prince Edward Public Health  staff had some fun in a workshop Wednesday and they hope it will help improve its services.
The workshop is called Improving and Driving Excellence Across Sectors . Andrew Landy, the senior public health inspector, took part in the workshop earlier this year in Kingston, and decided that they should run it at the health unit.
“It’s accepting that status quo is never enough. You can always make small improvements and it doesn’t always have to be something big,” Landy said.
The fun began with some team exercises, one of which used the Mr. Potato Head toy. The around 50 people in attendance were split into groups and tasked with putting him –his name was Sam – together. They assigned themselves roles, timed themselves and were judged on the accuracy of the final product. The purpose of the exercise was to show that just getting something done quickly isn’t good enough, you have to do it well. Most of the teams did pretty well putting their potato heads together although some “Sams” ended up with upside-down eyes.
The end goal of the workshop was something called quality improvements.
“The province thought (quality improvements) was important, and it is important,” said Landy.
“There’s always ways to do things better and it’s not always just about saving money. It’s about the end goal of providing better service to the public,” he said.
The health unit has already taken some steps to improve from Landy’s experience with it. It used to offer two different types of courses for their food training program. Type one saw health unit staff go to the businesses themselves. The second type had the businesses come to them.
The courses were designed to teach businesses how to safely handle food to avoid contamination and making people sick. They now primarily focus on providing courses at the health unit, because it allows them to teach multiple businesses at once. Though they still offer the more one-on-one type on a case-by-case basis, Landy said.
“It was taking up one of our support staff an inordinate amount of time. Almost the full time equivalent of an employee was working on handling the food handling course,” Landy said.
The workshop is part of a provincial initiative run through seven universities according to one of the two people who ran Wednesday’s session.
Dr. Kim Sears, Queen’s University’s associate director of health quality programs, said the provincial government wanted to make sure that quality improvement was a standardized process throughout the communities in Ontario.
It’s about taking a systematic approach to making changes, and measuring them in order to ensure improvements have actually been made, Sears said.
“Maybe it took an hour for a visit, now it takes 45 minutes, but they’re not getting the level of service they had before. So, even though the time’s improved, maybe the whole overall quality experience hasn’t,” Sears said.