Proposed health care changes will benefit riding: MPP
By Chad Ingram
Published March 9, 2018
Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP and Ontario Labour Minister Laurie Scott says her government’s overhaul of Ontario’s health-care system is about reducing bureaucracy, eliminating a culture of silo care, and bringing health care back to a more locally controlled level.
Last week, Health Minister Christine Elliott announced sweeping changes to the health-care system that will restructure it completely. The plan is for the government to dissolve the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), folding their operations into a single, large agency to oversee health care in the province. The so-called super agency will include the former LHINs along with six other provincial health agencies, including eHealth Ontario and Cancer Care Ontario.
“If you’re a patient, the layers you have to go through to get the health care you need can be incredibly challenging,” Scott told the Times. “Too many layers of bureaucracy.”
Scott, who worked as nurse before she was first elected to the legislature in 2003, said for patients managing chronic illnesses, it has meant getting treatment through a number of different organizations.
“All these agencies have different functions,” Scott said. “It’s breaking down the silos. It had to have a major, transformational shift.”
Scott said having to deal with various agencies has meant some patients getting lost between the cracks, and have had to act as their own medical historians.
“It is a big transformation that is happening for a system that is not working,” she said.
Scott was asked if the transformation would mean job losses in the health-care sector.
“Not frontline care deliverers, no,” she replied, indicating that as things are restructured it’s possible there will be bureaucratic-type job losses.
Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath and other critics have said they believe the creation of a single-agency model could lead to the contracting out of health-care services to private providers.
Scott said the PC party is committed to universal access to a publicly funded health-care system.
“It’s part of who we are as Canadians and Ontarians,” she told the Times.
The government has said that family health teams and people’s access to their family physicians will not change.
Rather than an instituted integration framework from the top down as was created and enforced under the LHINs, the single-agency model will encourage health-care providers to form integrated groups amongst themselves, and submit proposals for those groups, of which it’s expected there will be 30 to 50 in the province. There are 14 LHINs.
“It’s going to evolve those partnerships . . . some already exist,” Scott said, referring to service agreements between Haliburton Highlands Health Services and Lindsay’s Ross Memorial Hospital, for instance.
As for a timeline, Scott said that is not completely clear, but said the complete transformation will take a few years.
At HHHS, CEO Carolyn Plummer said the organization’s model seems to fit well within the system the province is enacting.
“Although it is still too soon to know what impact this will have specifically on HHHS, the ministry’s proposed health team approach appears to align well with the health hub approach we have taken,” Plummer said in an email to the Times. “We have already integrated hospital, long-term care, community support services, and mental health services, and HHHS already works in partnership with Home and Community Care, as well as primary care providers at the Haliburton Highlands Family Health team. We also have strong partnerships with other larger health centres in the broader region, which help us facilitate access to services for people in Haliburton County.
“I’m pleased to see the emphasis the ministry has placed on helping people to navigate the health system, as this has been a focus of ours as well over the past few years. I’m proud of the strategic goals we have established as an organization and pleased to see how well they align with the ministry’s vision.”
“It is also too soon to know what impact the super agency – Ontario Health – will have,” Plummer added. “We currently work closely with the Central East LHIN, as well as others included in the proposed agency such as Ornge, Cancer Care Ontario, and Health Quality Ontario; we will be watching closely over the coming weeks to learn more about how the proposed changes will be implemented and how they will affect us.”
In an email, HHHS board chairman Jeff Gollob told the Times, “It is just too soon to be able to assess the practical impact of the changes, particularly in terms of the trickle-down effect at a local level, and how this might impact HHHS. There are many details still to be filled in.”