January 3, 2013

What does 2013 hold for health care in Northeastern Ontario?   If you live in Peawanuck, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie, Mattawa, Sudbury, North Bay, Parry Sound, Hearst, Wawa, or anywhere in between, health care in your community is coordinated, funded, and planned by the North East Local Health Integration Network (NE LHIN) – a crown agency of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care.  

Here are a few predictions from Louise Paquette, Chief Executive Officer of the North East LHIN:

What are the most significant changes you see for Northerners’ health care in 2013?

I foresee many positive, patient-centred changes for fellow Northerners.   The shift in health care is gaining momentum to more community-based care,Louise Jan Blog a system of more integrated care, and services that are clearly focused on the needs and interests of Northerners.

Early in the year, our North East LHIN strategic plan will be released.  We call it an Integrated Health Service Plan or an IHSP.  It maps out our region’s health care priorities for the next three years.  We spent months writing the plan, but we didn’t do it alone.  We spoke to more than 3,000 Northerners and they gave us sound advice on what is needed in Northeastern Ontario to build a stronger local health care system. In a nutshell, Northerners want a system that places more focus on patients and people, and that includes:

  • An easier system to navigate with fewer providers to get quality care;
  • More coordinated primary care;
  • Smoother transitions of care from hospital to community;
  • More community-based care to care for our seniors and frail elderly –the fastest growing part of our population base;
  • Increased access to mental health and substance abuse services; and
  • Services that respect the cultural and linguistic diversity of Northerners.

Northerners were clear that the status quo is not acceptable and they want to see health service providers working together with the needs of people at the centre.

What do you see as the greatest challenges to having a truly seamless patient experience?

People accepting that change is okay and is sorely needed to build the type of health care system we need as we grow older.

Let’s face it – we are working in a health care system that was established decades ago,  when hospital stays could last weeks to recover from surgery or birth, and when smoking was even allowed in hospitals!

But as scary as change can be, Northerners have told us that the status quo is more daunting.  They want reduced wait times, greater access to care, and an easier system to navigate.  The NE LHIN is already helping make change happen right here in Northeastern Ontario – through projects like health links, service realignment plans, the Algoma anchor agency, health system navigators, more assisted living services so people can live independently longer more community support the list just keeps getting longer, and better.

We keep hearing that Northeastern Ontario has a higher average of seniors than the provincial average - what will 2013 bring for seniors’ health care?

Health service providers all across our region are working more collaboratively to provide and plan for the needs of our seniors. The North East LHIN will continue to work on important projects like Falls Prevention and Chronic Disease Prevention and Management. I expect we’ll see more focused partnerships in the new year. I also look forward to implementing recommendations in the provincial Seniors’ Strategy led by Dr. Samir Sinha who spent a busy 48 hours in our LHIN this fall, that will soon be released.

Of all the individuals you met last year, who are some of the people that have had the greatest impact on you and how you go about your work as a senior health care administrator?  

  • 108-year-old Margaret ‘Granny’ Wabano in Moose Factory.  She was about to be discharged from hospital, and, like most Northeastern seniors, was looking forward to going home, and to spending time with her friends at the Elders Gathering Place. We must be working to help with transitions of care for people like her, and the 18% of Northerners who are already seniors.
  • Arvind Jagessar, a Sudburian who is benefiting from a LHIN-funded mental health community crisis model.  This community-focused initiative enhances an existing location downtown, 127 Cedar Street, and the mobile community crisis unit, which will now be on the road seven days a week – both of which are bringing services closer to where people need them most.  And as Arvind himself told me, the centre allows him to get the care he needs in community and away from the hospital’s busy emerge department.
  • The vibrant and active 80 and 90 year old remarkable women and men who are an inspiration to all of us.

If you could make one wish come true in 2013, what would it be?

I’d wish that all Northerners would have improved access to care – especially primary care – when they need it, and where they need it.