Submitted by the Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority
Maxine Zasitko, a clinical team manager for public health in the Interlake-Eastern health region, was honoured with the Manitoba Institute for Patient Safety 2020 Patient Safety Champion Award on Nov. 13. Zasitko was chosen for her significant efforts implementing a harm reduction approach to substance use.
In 2015, Zasitko helped to secure important grant money for increased harm reduction awareness and to support needle distribution, naloxone overdose prevention and safer smoking initiatives. The region was able to hire harm reduction coordinators who have provided support and established harm reduction and peer networks.
Shannon Montgomery, regional director for public health with Interlake-Eastern Regional Health Authority says that these networks and the program as a whole have given a voice to peers (people who use drugs) and have helped to inform better decision-making around public health initiatives.
“Maxine is a strong advocate for eliminating stigma and racism which create significant barriers for
people to access services across the system,” said Montgomery. “We’re proud of Maxine and her meaningful contributions to patient safety and client experience, and we celebrate her hard work, passion and dedication.”
Harm reduction initiatives have expanded and grown within the region, thanks in part to collaboration with other community-based programs and with Indigenous communities. According to Zasitko, this collaborative approach with everyone involved has been important to the program’s success, and in particular with the peers.
“It is such an honour to walk alongside the experts – the peers themselves – in their journey; to hear their voices and to have them part of our team so we can address the barriers they come against in our health and social systems,” said Zasitko. “This award is also a symbol of remembrance for me of all of the friends, family members and people we cared for that have been lost during their journey.”
Zasitko thanked the Interlake-Eastern RHA’s regional leadership team, her director of public health and fellow managers who supported her development of harm reduction services. She added that the work is only possible because of the efforts of public health staff, staff from other programs, and harm reduction facilitators.
“These staff members provide non-judgmental, true client-centred care, and they take the time to listen and advocate so the needs of peers can be better addressed. They are also there to celebrate with peers and support them when things are going well in their lives. It is such a blessing to observe the meaningful relationships built between staff and peers.”
Laurie Thompson, executive director of MIPS said Zasitko’s efforts show that a patient-centred approach to care is a cornerstone of patient safety.
“Reducing stigma and systemic barriers ensures that all Manitobans have a chance to safeguard and improve their health and well-being,” said Thompson.
Patient safety is an ongoing priority for Interlake-Eastern RHA, and every year during Patient Safety Week in October, the RHA hands out their own awards to recognize staff efforts and achievements in ensuring safety for patients. Zasitko was actually recipient of the 2019 CEO Patient Safety Award for her efforts in harm reduction.
This year’s recipient of the individual CEO Patient Safety Award was Anita McDonald, a member of the housekeeping team at Selkirk Regional Health Centre (SRHC). Anita was chosen for her attention to detail, making safety a priority in her everyday work, and her excellent communication with team members, patients, and families.
The group award went to the family birthing unit team, also at the SRHC. The team was commended for their commitment to promoting a culture of safety by demonstrating effective communication, ongoing education, elevating safety concerns, and working together as a team.