April 13, 2011

Dear Northerners,

LHINs Give Value in Health Care for Fewer Dollars

Health care in Ontario is changing from a system that revolved around big institutions like hospitals to one that is beginning to put the patient at the center of services offered in a community.

A big change, but then again, Ontario moved from a centralized decision making system to one that finally allows a regional voice to be heard.

Being part of this shift in the way we plan health care, and seeing how it’s achieving better results with more money going towards frontline workers, has been the hardest but one of the most rewarding times of my life.

Before the North East Local Health Integration Network (that’s what the ‘LHIN’ name stands for), all decisions about health care spending were made in Toronto. Now, Northerners on our Board of Directors make decisions at public board meetings here in the North East.

That means we get the right fit for health care, instead of the ‘one-size-fits-all’ scenario that doesn’t work for a population like ours with a greater population of elderly citizens (17%), Francophones (24%), and Aboriginal/First Nation/Métis (10%) people. And yes, unfortunately we tend to eat, drink and smoke more than we should in the North too.

At the North East LHIN, a region that starts south of Parry Sound and extends North to the Hudson Bay Coast, we are working together with 185 health providers including: 25 hospitals; 41 long-term care homes; seven community health centres; mental health and addiction agencies; and community support agencies such as the Red Cross, Meals on Wheels,and the Alzheimer Society. Each of our providers signs an agreement with the LHIN and is held accountable for delivering services to the people of Northeastern Ontario.

April Blog Photo

As system thinkers, we bring together these providers in an effort to improve access to care and create a more streamlined, integrated system whether it’s by devising a way for hospitals to share diagnostic images or challenging providers to find new ways to bring assisted living services to seniors living at home.

We’re getting results too!

  • Since August 2010, our percentage of Alternate Level of Care patients, mainly the frail elderly in acute care hospital beds waiting to go home, has been almost halved at our four urban hospitals dropping to 14 per cent.
  • Wait times for knee surgery in our region has been cut by 78% with a North East LHIN-supported Joint Assessment Centre at Sudbury Regional Hospital. There are other centres now in Timmins and North Bay, and similar centres will soon open in Parry Sound and Sault Ste. Marie.
  • We’ve integrated services and even hospitals. The North East LHIN helped create a new health authority, from two hospitals to better meet the health care needs of 11,500 people living along the Hudson and James Bay Coasts.
  • During the past year, the NE LHIN improved the lives of 14,600 seniors in Northeastern Ontario by funding Aging at Home services ranging from  driving seniors to medical appointments, to helping to bathe and dress them, to bringing hot meals to homes. 
  • Our LHIN is taking the lead on Ontario’s first-ever integrated model of care for addiction and mental health services. This new anchor agency will unite 18 providers and 129 services making it easier for patients to find the help they need in Algoma.

Concrete results are being achieved with less administration: The North East LHIN’S 36 staff  has replaced 100 staff regional ministry and District Health Council offices.

And we spend our money wisely.  The NE LHIN allocates 99.8 % of its budget, around $1.2-billion annually, to front-line health care in our communities. Just 0.2 % is spent on staff living and working in our four community offices of North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste Marie and Timmins.

And in this spirit of patient-centered care, over the next couple months, we’ll be engaging wholeheartedly with people and providers across the Northeast. We want to ensure that our $1.2 billion is invested in the right places to effectively meet the health care needs of people living in our communities.

  • Is funding of the health care providers in your community accurately reflecting the needs of the people who live there?
  • Is there an opportunity for your providers to integrate so that residents receive more coordinated and patient-focused health care services?

Tell us what you think—post a comment below or become a facebook fan.

We will be posting our community engagement dates, times and locations soon and I look forward to chatting with you at one of them.

Louise Paquette
CEO of the North East LHIN