Thursday, 21 March, 2019

Ontario overhauling health-care system with super agency

Ford government introducing legislation to form super agency called 'Ontario Health' Ford government to create new super agency, Ontario Health
Celia Hoffman | 28 February, 2019, 12:26

Some 30 to 50 new Ontario Health Teams to be created across the province, she said, "will rely on leadership that already exists in the community rather than create another level of bureaucracy and management".

Today, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, delivered the Government of Ontario's long-term plan to fix and strengthen the public health care system by focusing directly on the needs of Ontario's patients and families. "We will still need them".

The government said people will still be able to choose who provides their care, and more choices will be available through technology, such as giving patients an option to securely access their electronic health records and virtual care options.

Ontario's renewed patient-centric approach is paired with historic investments in long-term care for seniors and improved mental health and addictions services for families.

The Ontario health teams will be responsible for organizing and delivering health care services in their areas.

But she also acknowledged that there was a lot of uncertainty about the future of the local health integration networks and the functions they carry out following the province's announcement.

"That is something we can't answer right now because of the fact that it is going to be up to the local Ontario health teams to structure the care that's going to be needed in that local area", said Elliott when pressed by reporters Tuesday morning.

"We are past the point of policy tinkering around the edges that simply shifts capacity problems from one end of the system to the other", her provided written remarks read.

Kevin Smith, the president of the University Health Network in Toronto, was enthusiastic about putting local teams in charge of health care. "These teams will be built to guide patients between providers and shepherd you and your families through transitions". Almost 9,000 people work at the 14 LHINs, including care co-ordinators.

In Muskoka, health providers overseen by the North Simcoe Muskoka LHIN included two hospital sites, four long-term care homes, five organizations provincial mental health and addictions services, and 16 agencies providing home and community care.

In place of the LHINs will be a centralized "Super Agency" to coordinate care.

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"This risky Ford government reboot of our public health system must be stopped before patient care and safety fall victim to the gaps, holes and pitfalls this massive overhaul will create, " said CUPE Ontario President Fred Hahn.

It is described as a "super-agency" that will dissolve the 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and merge their duties with those of six provincial health agencies, including Cancer Care Ontario and eHealth Ontario.

The teams will treat patients "seamlessly", another official said, estimating optimistically that it would take three years to implement, starting by working with a "coalition of the willing" ahead of a full provincial rollout.

"I think we, as family physicians, know that the system needs change", she said.

However, the request was deferred to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.

Care providers will also benefit from the expansion of digital tools, enabling them to more quickly and comprehensively access the information they need, such as specialist advice and clinical supports. These teams would support continuous access to care and smooth transitions as patients move between one provider to another, and receive care in different locations or health care settings.

The government's plan also doesn't address how the health care system is funded.

Ms. Elliott, who rebuffed repeated questions about layoffs, said that care co-ordinators would not lose their jobs.

More efficient use of public health care dollars by eliminating duplicative back office infrastructure and administration.

There was no word on job cuts, but talk is of "understanding the assets in the system" and making decisions that best serve the agency, including on the level of staffing it needs.

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