July 7, 2011

Dear Northerners,

Over the past two months, I have had the pleasure of meeting face to face with many fellow Northerners, talking to community members and health service providers about how health care is experienced and delivered across our vast geography.

The NELHIN has held  a total of 25 community engagements from Cochrane to Parry Sound, from Englehart to Manitoulin Island, and from Sault Ste. Marie to Noëlville. We’ve met with hundreds of Northerners who share our passion for building a local health care system that provides the right care, in the right place, at the right time, and at the right cost.

We heard first-hand how our region needs more assisted living services so that our seniors and frail elderly can benefit from help with activities of daily living Noelville Community Engagementsuch as preparing meals, bathing and more.  Sometimes just a little extra homecare can keep us living at home longer and more comfortably, and at the same time avoids becoming a dreaded ALC statistic.  We heard how many of our communities could benefit from a system navigator – someone in the community to help connect people with the care they need, as close to home as possible.  And, we heard more examples of the fragmentation in mental health and addiction services and how a more integrated system could better serve fellow Northerners. 

Over the course of the summer, we will compile the information and recommendations from these engagements and report back to you in the fall. There is no doubt that making our health care system more accessible for our 550,000 residents across Northeastern Ontario means thinking as a system rather than in silos that too often are focused on the organization rather than the patient.

We know that Northeastern Ontario residents are sicker and have higher rates of chronic disease than those in Southern Ontario. The North East LHIN’s $1.3-billion dollar budget goes directly to front-line care through accountability North Bay CE_SMagreements we have with 186 local health care providers.

We know that while the population of Ontario grew by 13% between the 1996 and 2006 census periods, it decreased in Northeastern Ontario by 5%. We also know that about 17% of the current North East population is older than 65, which is higher than the provincial average of 13%. This demographic is going to grow dramatically in our region in the coming two decades.

Given our aging demographic and the fact that the fastest growing program in Ontario is the interest on the provincial debt, the NE LHIN has used these community engagement sessions to ask you two questions:

  • Are NE LHIN health care investments in your community aligned with the needs of people living in your community?
  • Are there opportunities for your local health services providers to better coordinate their services in a more integrated and patient-focused way?

If you have an opinion or comments, please e-mail your ideas, thoughts and comments to engagingwithyou@lhins.on.ca. You can also call 1-866-906-5446 or post comments here at my blog.

Finally, I want to thank my fellow Northerners for being part of the solution by providing advice and suggestions to help better align our precious health care dollars with local needs. I also want to sincerely thank those who have shared your personal stories with me. Bridging the gap in care that often occurs when patients are discharged from hospital is a recurring theme. The NE LHIN will continue to work with you to improve access to quality care and to help ensure appropriate services are less fragmented across the system and available in your community.

Enjoy your summer!