Local health teams and mergers: Ontario health-care transformation unveiled

Pearl Mccarthy
February 28, 2019

Ontario is consolidating its local and provincial health networks to create a central agency as part of a system overhaul, the health minister announced Tuesday, though she wouldn't say if the move will save money or lead to job losses.

Ontario Health would integrate programs like Cancer Care Ontario, Health Quality Ontario, eHealth Ontario, Trillium, Health Shared Services, and 14 local health networks. "That is just wrong".

Background materials from the government said that Ontario Health would eliminate "duplicative back office infrastructure and administration".

Ms. Elliott refused to say how many people would lose their jobs, or how much money would be cut from provincial health spending, which is expected to be almost $62-billion, or 42 per cent of overall spending, this fiscal year.

"I think we, as family physicians, know that the system needs change", she said. "This is not a financial exercise".

As well, Ontario Health Teams will be established to provide what Elliott calls seamless access to health services, including primary care, hospitals, home and community care, palliative care, residential long-term care, and mental health and addictions services.

"We need to get more direct care so that we can make fast decisions and have that urgency to help a person who might be one call away from the ER", VanderBent said. We want to make sure that we can amplify those home care numbers. "So in the end... it will work out".

"The way the bill is written, they can take mental health, long-term care, home care, hospitals, and pull them all together and manage them under one system", said Bisson.

And so, she said, the not-for-profit home was eager to discuss opportunities for more long-term care beds for the area, beyond the 20 additional beds already included as part of the home's ongoing multimillion-dollar redevelopment project.

The province will also establish so-called Ontario Health Teams - comprised of different health care providers - to improve patient transitions between health care settings. Elliott said the goal is to have 30 to 50 health teams set up, each responsible for up to 300,000 people.

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Elliott says there have been changes since the draft bill was leaked.

Hospital overcrowding has become the "new normal", Home Care Ontario says, with 15 per cent of Ontario hospital beds now occupied by patients who no longer require a hospital stay but have nowhere else to go for their care. The health teams will be given a lot of flexibility in how they operate to allow for local variation, officials said.

Improving access to secure digital tools, including online health records and virtual care options for patients. "This creates confusion for both patients and providers trying to navigate the health care system".

Last month, a leaked draft version of the bill that the NDP revealed showed that Ontario was planning a health "super agency", and at the time, NDP Ontario's Andrea Horwath said the Super Agency's guiding principles is to "partner with public and private sector entities".

Chris Young/CANADIAN PRESSOntario NDP Leader Andrea Horwath scrums with reporters in Oshawa, Ont. on February 14, 2019.

The government intends to introduce legislation on the health system overhaul by Tuesday afternoon.

Family doctors are well-positioned to help patients navigate the system and have a first-hand understanding of the ways health care delivery could be improved, Young said.

The Ontario Health Coalition has spoken strongly against the PC plans, saying in a statement that the changes will give the province "privatization powers".

Dr. Nadia Alam, president of the Ontario Medical Association, welcomed the proposed changes, saying patients are now struggling to get the care that they need.

"It's early days in terms of the details of how these will function, but we are very much poised to be leaders in these situations", she said. "It's a system wildly out of balance".

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