Ford government to roll out team-focused health care

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Currently, home care receives only five per cent of the "proportional health-care spend" in Ontario, about $2.7 billion out of a $54-billion budget, VanderBent said.

The Ford government will announce what it calls sweeping changes to the health-care system on Tuesday, changes the minister in charge says will put patients first.

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

The government introduced new legislation Tuesday to consolidate multiple health-care agencies and organizations under Ontario Health.

The idea, Ms. Elliott said, is to have local organizations such as hospitals, community health centres, home-care providers and doctors voluntarily form a team, then apply to the government to be the central point of contact in a geographic area, or for specific kinds of patients such as the frail elderly or children with complex needs.

The Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario said they're optimistic that the government plan will divert money from middle management in the health bureaucracy to front line care.

The health teams will eventually replace the 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) that now allocate money to different parts of the healthcare system across the province. Health care providers will be accountable for the patients they serve and will partner to effectively coordinate their care. "Health care providers are overstretched, and the high-quality care Ontarians have come to expect is at risk", it continued.

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"It's really about people paying people to do the job", said VanderBent, whose group represents a number of agencies that operate within the North East Local Health Integration Network.

"The way the bill is written, they can take mental health, long-term care, home care, hospitals, and pull them all together and manage them under one system", said Bisson.

In a background briefing document, the government promises this will eliminate "duplicative" management and administrative teams, and that at least initially, patients will be able to choose who provides their care.

"The system will be based on our public model". With safeguards in place to protect personal health information, patients will also have an option to securely access digital health services, such as having access to their electronic health records and virtual care options for patients. Health-care providers will also have more care choices because digital care will give them quick access specialist advice and clinical supports, said the province. "I don't think there is quite as much to (the announcement) as they would like to have us believe". This would improve clinical guidance and support for providers and enable better quality care for patients. However, she noted that home care is now delivered by both public and private agencies.

"Our government is taking a comprehensive, pragmatic approach to addressing the public health care system", said Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli. The funding will follow the patient, so it will also be portable.

The South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) - the regional agency that allocates health care dollars in much of Southwestern Ontario from Lake Erie to Tobermory - would be caught up in the provincial agency amalgamation, as will its counterpart in Sarnia-Lambton and Windsor-Essex, the Erie St. Clair LHIN. 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.

There was no word on job cuts, but talk is of "understanding the assets in the system" and making decisions that best serve the agency, including on the level of staffing it needs.

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