Ontario health-care transformation to be unveiled today

Ford government introducing legislation to form super agency called 'Ontario Health'

Ford government introducing legislation to form super agency called 'Ontario Health'

At the announcement Tuesday in Toronto, Health Minister Christine Elliott said too much time and money is spent maintaining a fragmented system.

Legislation introduced Tuesday would create a new agency, called Ontario Health, to consolidate the 14 local health integration networks, Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario and several other agencies. "The fact is that the value of our health care system is locked in siloes". "At the same time the people of Ontario deserve peace of mind that this system is sustainable and accessible for all patients and their families, regardless of where you live, how much you make, or the kind of care you require". "That is just wrong".

In a release, the Ontario government says that integrating multiple provincial agencies and specialized provincial programs into a single agency would provide a central point of accountability and oversight for the health care system. Elliott said the government will begin creating Ontario Health this spring but said the health care system overhaul will not happen overnight.

She said for patients, transitioning from one healthcare provider to another would be seamless and easy.

"This is not a financial exercise", Ms. Elliott said. "We will still need them".

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. "Ontarians can be confident that there will be a sustainable health care system for them when and where they need it". "So, in the end, it will work out".

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.

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Elliott confirmed that a new super agency, called Ontario Health, would absorb the functions of six existing agencies and 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs), the organizations that now oversee home care and manage the waiting lists for nursing homes. "This is no way to deliver health care in our province". They also said the new law will not force different healthcare providers to "bid on" or compete with each other for funding to provide services. This would improve clinical guidance and support for providers and enable better quality care for patients. The health teams will be given a lot of flexibility in how they operate to allow for local variation, officials said.

"There will be no more for-profit care in the system that we are envisioning", she said. "Each time a conversion has taken place, we've seen a diminishing response to community needs", he said. "We have access to our own health-care record".

On Monday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath reiterated the changes she hoped to see in the plan.

"This morning's press conference did not allay our concerns about opening up our public health care system to private, for profit, motivated corporations", she said.

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

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.

Anthony Dale, the CEO of the Ontario Hospital Association, said a broader view of the health-care system will help address overcrowding and help break down barriers that exist between care providers in the health-care system.

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