Ontario unveils new 'Ontario Health' super agency, co-ordinated health teams

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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.

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

Muskoka projects in which the agency is now involved, among many others, include: the future capital planning of Muskoka's hospitals, the redevelopment and bed expansion for Fairvern Nursing Home, and the District of Muskoka-led Muskoka Health Link program that navigates, co-ordinates and integrates care for complex patients and increases access to primary care through area health hubs.

Healthcare reform has become a political flashpoint in #onpoli, ever since the opposition NDP obtained and leaked a draft version of the bill, arguing that it indicated secret plans to privatize healthcare.

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

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. Ontario 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.

It is described as a "super-agency" that will dissolve the 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and merge their duties with those of six provincial health agencies, including Cancer Care Ontario and eHealth Ontario.

Bureaucrats said they aren't in a rush to dissolve LHINs because they co-ordinate care for numerous province's most complex patients.

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.

When asked how many staff would lose their jobs as a result of the reorganization, the minister said that is something she can't answer right now.

"If we expect real improvements that patients will experience first-hand, we must better coordinate the public health care system, so it is organized around people's needs and outcomes". To achieve true integrated and coordinated care, Ontario is proposing to streamline the important work of these health agencies so it can be performed more effectively and collaboratively, provide more value for tax dollars and enable people to work together instead of in silos.

But Elliott would not say how many jobs could be lost during the reorganization.

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. "We will still need them".

Ontarians will eventually see their cradle-to-grave health needs co-ordinated by teams of providers - including hospitals, doctors and home-care agencies - as the Ford government rolls out a major overhaul of the province's health-care system. "And we stack up as probably the most efficient health care organization in the world based on that OHA report". The health teams will be given a lot of flexibility in how they operate to allow for local variation, officials said. 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. "I think what they need is a very clear mandate". This Council provides advice on key health care priorities that have an impact on patient care and experience, and drive meaningful changes to provincial health care planning, programs and policies. "Realistically, I'd like the Ontario health system to get better".

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