Health Care

Ford government to create new super agency, Ontario Health

Ford government to create new super agency, Ontario Health”

Ontario announced Tuesday plans to create a new super-agency called Ontario Health that, if approved in Queen's Park, would merge into one the current 14 Local Health Integration Networks and other health-care agencies such as eHealth Ontario and Cancer Care Ontario.

Health Minister Christine Elliott is set to introduce legislation this afternoon and will make an announcement on it this morning.

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.

She noted that not only Muskoka, but across Ontario, there were significant wait lists for long-term care admissions with many people stuck in hospital beds as they wait.

"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.

Sue VanderBent, CEO of the member-based organization representing Ontario's home-care services, said she believes the province is honest and is prepared to significantly beef up home care.

A news release states, "Ontario now has a large network of provincial and regional agencies, clinical oversight bodies and 1,800 health service provider organizations".

The province will be combining many of its health services including the LHINs to create one super agency named Ontario Health.

The teams would be responsible for delivering all of the care for their patients and connecting them to services. "This will enable local teams of health care providers to know and understand each patient's needs and provide the appropriate, high-quality connected care Ontarians expect and deserve", said Elliott. "We look forward to hearing more about what this means for the patients we serve, our partners and our teams at Quinte Health Care hospitals", she said. A statement from the Ontario Hospital Association (OHA) described the government as aiming for "long-term, transformational change".

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The PC government's sweeping changes to Ontario's health system have health care professionals wondering if it will actually mean better access to care for patients.

"That lack of communication and coordination can turn into large cracks in the system".

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

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. Some administrative jobs were lost in the process, but it meant the LHIN took on hundreds of people in what is now called its home and community care branch.

VanderBent said no matter what changes the province makes, demand for "good" home care will remain. "And we stack up as probably the most efficient health care organization in the world based on that OHA report".

"To me, it is somewhat disappointing that this major new deal in organizing health care makes no mention of the experiments that have been going on in terms of primary care reform which have had the same objective as this new deal is supposed to provide", he 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.

Integration is a nice idea, but the government's announcement is underwhelming and short on an action plan, C.D. Howe Institute health policy fellow Ake Blomqvist said.

Home Care Ontario said such a funding boost would help deliver nine million more PSW visits, five million more nursing visits and increased therapy visits.

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