January 2016

Happy New Year and welcome to 2016!

For many of us the start of the new year marks a period of change, as we set goals to improve our lives. Whether it be hitting the gym, quitting smoking or paying off old debts, resolving to do better this year than we have in the past is a common theme.

With the late December release of Patients First: A Proposal to Strengthen Patient-Centred Health Care in Ontario, the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care made clear its own resolution, so to speak, to transform health care and the foundation for a system that is high-performing, more integrated, sustainable and better serves patients.

The discussion paper outlines significant structural changes to the health system that would expand the role played by Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs). Among the ideas presented are reforms that that would see LHINs assume responsibility for home and community care and system integration, and have greater involvement with primary care and improved linkages with population health planning. Under the proposal, LHINs would assume responsibility for planning, managing and improving the performance of ALL health services within their respective regions.

While it has been clear for some time that big changes to Ontario’s health system were coming, few predicted they would be as broad as what is being discussed.

The proposal aims to address issues raised by patients, caregivers and health service providers and was influenced to varying degrees by a number of expert reports including those developed by:

  • Health Quality Ontario;
  • The Auditor General of Ontario;
  • The Primary Health Care Expert Advisory Committee;
  • The Expert Group on Home and Community Care;
  • The Commission on the Reform of Ontario’s Public Service (the Drummond Report); and,
  • The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario.

Many of the issues facing our health system arise from variations in the way different health services are planned and managed. For instance, hospital, long-term care, community services, and mental health and addiction services are all overseen by the LHINs, while primary care, home and community care services and public health services are planned by separate entities in different ways. As a result of these different structures, the LHINs have not had the tools to fulfill their mandate to align and integrate the health services in their communities.

Without a doubt the changes coming are enormous, but the gains to be realized are equally so. That’s not to say there won’t be challenges – with sweeping reform of this magnitude there will be no shortage of hurdles to overcome. This, however, is where identifying and addressing potential challenges by tapping into the vast knowledge and experiences of providers and health system users will prove crucial. Though the direction outlined in the paper is clear, many questions remain concerning how to plan for and implement the proposed approach successfully.

Recognizing that these changes impact the delivery of health care for all Ontarians, Minister Hoskins is seeking input from the public. In addition to directly engaging with stakeholders including providers, patients and caregivers, the ministry has asked the LHINs to engage health system users at the local level.

In order to collect feedback on the ideas presented from the greatest number of residents, the HNHB LHIN will be conducting one of our largest ever community engagement efforts. We will be hosting a series of webinars detailing the content of the discussion paper that are open to the public and will be followed by roundtable discussions, as well as seeking input via feedback questionnaires touching on the four main components of the proposal.

I invite and encourage you to read through the discussion paper and to share your comments, questions and concerns during one of our upcoming webinar events or via our feedback questionnaires.

To Read the full Patients First: A Proposal to Strengthen Patient-Centred Health Care in Ontario discussion paper, CLICK HERE.

To learn more about webinar dates and times, or to complete a feedback questionnaire, CLICK HERE.

If you or your organization would like to be featured in a future blog or share a patient story in one of our Voices in the Community videos you can reach us through our office, or if you’re on social media via our Twitter handle -@HNHB_LHINgage. Your feedback and questions are always welcome.