Putting Northern Patients First  

December 21, 2016

Dear Northerners, 

At a panel discussion I participated in recently to develop a Northern Ontario Equity Strategy, Dr. Jeffrey Turnbull, Health Quality Ontario’s Chief of Clinical, talked about how equity and access are intertwined.  You can’t separate them, he said. And you can’t have an equitable health care system unless you have equity for all.

Meeting Anne-Marie Brydge and listening with my heart, not just my ears, as she shared her positive impression of transitioning from hospital to a homey setting in community for Enhanced Congregate Care.

True. As Northerners we don’t have the same access to many services that people in Southern Ontario take for granted.

Our massive geography means more travel and need for transportation. We don’t have the same access to medical care because we are farther away from many specialists and some communities don’t have public transportation to help people access care within their own communities.     

Housing is another issue. Our recently released Innovative Housing with Health Supports in Northeastern Ontario Strategic Plan: 2016-2019 found that in the North East there is a shortage of appropriate housing stock and the population of seniors and people with low income is higher than the provincial average. Our region also has numerous small communities with aging populations and limited options for people who wish to live in their own homes for as long as possible. 

As a LHIN we’re working on addressing these inequities -- such as funding telemedicine to bring care closer to home, investing in transportation to help people move better between hospitals and ensure working with partners to ensure a more collaborative approach. 

This fall, I met Anne-Marie Brydge at an event in North Bay.  She explained that she had been a hospital patient, and had just moved into the apartment where the event was held the day before.  She shared with me how happy she was to be out of hospital and back into a home-like setting, complete with freshly baked goods in the kitchen, a television and living room, and health care professionals around the clock to help her live safely and injury-free.

The NE LHIN provided $230,000 in new funding to PHARA (Physically Handicapped Adults’ Rehabilitation Association – Nipissing-Parry Sound) to offer 24-hour support for people like Anne-Marie who need extra care as they transition out of hospital to their next home care setting.  In just six months, 29 clients have used PHARA’s transitional beds and saved 893 days in care at the hospital.   

As a LHIN we’re working to improve access to equitable quality care for all Northerners.  Along the way, we will continue to ask people, like Anne-Marie, what will make their health care experience better.  As always, I’m happy to hear your ideas.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful holiday season,