Changes to provincial healthcare system

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The Provincial Progressive Conservative (PC) government has set forth a new proposal for the dissolution of Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) in favour of an Ontario-wide super health agency. The announcement was posted in the Ontario Newsroom website on Feb. 26, and specified suggested changes to the healthcare system.

There are plans to incorporate the duties of the LHINs with six other health agencies, including Cancer Care Ontario and eHealth Ontario.

Christine Elliott, deputy premier and minister of health, said that the aim of the suggested changes is to build a more integrated, coordinated, and accountable healthcare system which is easier for patients to navigate, as well as to modernize delivery and equipment of services.

“Our government is committed to building a modern, connected public healthcare system that patients, families, and caregivers deserve,” Elliott said. “To build a truly patient-centred system of care, we must enable collaboration and coordination from top to bottom.”

The PC government has also placed an emphasis on senior and mental healthcare, with a commitment for 30,000 nursing home beds and a $38.8 billion investment, respectively, over the next 10 years.

George Heckman, an associate professor at the University of Waterloo’s School of Public Health and Health Systems and the Schlegel Research Chair in Geriatric Medicine, believes that there is an opportunity here to improve on the shortcomings of the the LHIN system.

“If you have a single agency that sets a standard in terms of how you assess people, that sets a quality standard,” he said. “[If] you do things correctly, [if the standards are the same] … you can allow local flexibility to come up with a solution that fits local needs that will meet the standard.”

“Right now, it doesn’t seem like there’s actually something firm. So it could go sideways or, if they really start thinking about these mechanisms, and that’s what they put in place, it might work,” Heckman said.

On Mar. 8, two more announcements were made. First, a Board of Directors has been chosen. Second, a Patient Declaration of Values for Ontario has been released by Elliott and Julie Drury, chair of the minister’s Patient and Family Advisory Council.

The Declaration has five core elements: respect and dignity, empathy and compassion, accountability, transparency, and equity and engagement. For more information, visit news.ontario.ca/newsroom/en. 

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