New Ontario Health super agency and co-ordinated health teams announced

Ford and Elliott

Ontario is merging 20 health agencies into one super agency and will establish local health teams to co-ordinate care as part of a system overhaul.

Overhauling the system would begin in the spring, but Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott, in the announcement this morning, said it will take years to take shape.

The Ontario health teams also will help roll out patient and physician access to more secure digital tools, including the ability to teleconference with care providers, book appointments and access health records, a tidal shift that could save primary care providers time, one London doctor says. "They will continue to pay for their health care services using their OHIP card", Elliott said.

"I think that sense of urgency to say, 'What can we do to increase service to support this family so that they don't need to go and spend 12 hours in a hospital hallway?'" "This is not a financial exercise". "Ontarians can be confident that there will be a sustainable health care system for them when and where they need it".

The bold changes aren't necessarily going to be positive for patients or the public, warns Peter Bergmanis, co-chair of the Ontario Health Coalition's London chapter. Integrated care looks at the whole person, not just the illness. "So in the end... it will work out".

"She is saying people want to live at home, people want to stay and receive care at home", VanderBent told The Sault Star from Hamilton, Ont.

Elliot stated patients will still choose who provides their care and more choices will be available through technology - such as offering patients access to electronic health records and providing virtual care options. Elliott said the goal is to have 30 to 50 health teams set up, each responsible for up to 300,000 people.

In early February, the NDP leaked a government draft bill which first revealed the super agency plan.

Ontario Health, she said, will include Ontario Health Teams.

Kevin McNamara, Nova Scotia's deputy health minister from 2009 to 2013, said his province's decision to combine nine district health authorities into one in 2015 diminished local control and led to too much top-down meddling. "This creates confusion for both patients and providers trying to navigate the health care system".

Meanwhile, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath was blasting the government's plans before they were announced.

Ontario has tried out family health team models in the past, a system where physicians practice together in a clinic that may include other publicly funded services such as a dietician, nurse practitioners or psychologists.

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

The Ford government is introducing legislation that will transform health-care in the province.

He saw similar problems in other provinces, including Alberta and British Columbia, where the pendulum has swung between local and centralized health-care delivery without clear improvements in patient care. "Home care continues as before an there are no changes to long-term care home placement", a statement on the North East Local Health Integration Network website reads.

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.

She said for patients, transitioning from one healthcare provider to another would be seamless and easy. "Today, hospital overcrowding is widely recognized as one of the biggest challenges facing Ontario's health system". "It's a system wildly out of balance".

"I think some of those organizations, quite frankly, have ballooned in terms of staffing, " said CEO Doris Grinspun. "I don't think there is quite as much to (the announcement) as they would like to have us believe".

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