Building a Connected Public Health Care System for the Patient

28 February, 2019, 12:32 | Author: Jerome Frank
  • Ford government introducing legislation to form super agency called 'Ontario Health'

Ontario Health Teams will be made up of local health-care providers and as a group will guide patients using the healthcare system.

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

As expected, the minister also confirmed that a new superagency, Ontario Health, would absorb the functions of six health-care agencies, including Cancer Care Ontario, and 14 local health integration networks (LHINs), the organizations that now oversee home care and manage the waiting lists for nursing homes.

"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.

According to the province, the new plan "would improve access to services and patient experience". Health care providers will be accountable for the patients they serve and will partner to effectively coordinate their care.

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.

"We hope the bill has been drastically changed since we last saw it, to close the door to privatization and stop the creation of Ford's super agency", she said.

Ontario Health Teams will be responsible for delivering all of the care for their patients, understanding their health care history and needs, and directly connecting them to the different types of care they need.

The province says it is investing $3.8 billion over 10 years to establish a comprehensive and connected system for mental health and addictions treatment, and adding 15,000 new long-term care beds over five years and 30,000 beds over 10 years.

"Too much time and attention is spent on maintaining a siloed and fragmented system, and far too many people believe it is the patient's or the family's job to navigate this complicated system during what is already one of the most traumatic and stress-filled periods in their lives, " Elliott said. "But we have left them to do their best with a patchwork system simply not built to help them do their jobs", she said.

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Health care workers are mobilizing.

Senior health bureaucrats said some health teams could be specifically aimed at certain pervasive illnesses, such as diabetes, or mental health, tasked with co-ordinating all the doctors and healthcare professionals with expertise in that illness with all sufferers of that illness in the whole province.

Kevin Smith, the president of the University Health Network in Toronto, was enthusiastic about putting local teams in charge of health care.

At the time, Elliott said the bill was "just a draft" and that the NDP were "fear mongering" when it came to concerns they raised about potential privatization of services.

Providing patients, families and caregivers help in navigating the public health care system, 24/7.

"One in six hospital beds are occupied by someone who needs to be in long-term care or at home or assisted living, " he said. "We do not want patients to fall through those cracks", he said.

Bob Bell, Ontario's former deputy health minister, said the Progressive Conservative government is taking a big risk, especially considering that the health-team model is relatively untested.

Enhancing primary care, or empowering physicians to be health care navigators, has been a focus of many studies and policy experiments in Canada and beyond, Blomqvist said.

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. "I don't view that the role of public health will change".

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