Helping Hands Orillia looks to help ‘break the cycle’
Rob Soczka is the new executive director of Helping Hands Orillia, an organization that supports seniors and adults with physical disabilities to help them live independently in their homes.
An aging population, coupled with a squeeze on health-care dollars, is not all doom and gloom. For the new man at the helm of Helping Hands Orillia, it’s a complex puzzle to solve.
“That’s the real excitement to me. It’s no secret the demographic is getting older and more people are retiring in the area,” said Rob Soczka, 36, who became executive director June 11.
At the same time, the health-care system is shifting from hospital care to community care, which is creating more demand for the services Helping Hands provides to seniors and adults with physical disabilities.
“The real focus is shifting to keep those residents in their home longer with a better quality of life (so they don’t) necessarily have to go to the hospital,” he said.
“That’s the most attractive part of the job for me. I can come in and help an organization that’s been around for over 40 years,” said Soczka, who has a diverse background.
He most recently worked in the patient-transfer business, but has also worked as a paramedic, a manager in manufacturing businesses and a commercial insurance broker.
“The manufacturing industry gave me a really good, solid foundation in continuous improvement and lean (manufacturing) principles, which are very much applicable now to the health-care industry,” he said.
He said solutions are needed to “maximize resources, reduce waste, reduce the overlap and make sure we are stretching the resources we have.”
Helping Hands has approximately 70 full- and part-time staff and is currently hiring personal support workers for its new programs.
The agency’s nearly 200 volunteers “are really the backbone of the operation here,” he said. “We are always looking for more volunteers to leverage our services as much as possible. It’s a key element moving forward to meet the demand,” he said.
Volunteers are particularly needed for the transportation service, said Soczka, who noted he is meeting with other transportation providers so they can complement one another. While seniors can use the transportation service for shopping and recreation locally, it is also used for medical appointments in Orillia, Barrie and Toronto.
“For me, the real challenge and opportunity is to work with other organizations to maximize efficiency throughout the organizations,” he said.
Soczka said health care is complicated and solutions can only be found by having open dialogue with stakeholders.
“We are constantly in conversation with management at (Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital) to help co-ordinate care for clients in the community,” he said.
“What’s waiting for them at home?” he asked. “If they don’t have the appropriate support network, they will be back in hospital in short order. The idea is to break the cycle.”
Helping Hands is funded by the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network and works closely with the Community Care Access Centre as well as a wide variety of community services.