April 16, 2012

Dear Northerners:

I’m sure many of you have read Ontario’s Action Plan to Transform Health Care. The Action Plan calls for improved access to quality care, stronger family health care, and care that’s delivered at the right time and in the right place. It responds to the two major challenges we have across Ontario, but experience in a unique way here in Northeastern Ontario – demographic and financial challenges.

When you consider that our Northeastern population is aging, declining, dispersed and growing old with chronic illnesses such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease, we need to look at the design and delivery of health care.

Together, we need to shift from a system focused on acute care to one that delivers chronic care – the kind of care that supports seniors in community and helps people manage their chronic illnesses so that they don’t need to be admitted to hospital. It means, putting the best interests of the patients first – not the institution.

The Action Plan includes measures to:

  • Shift resources into home care which will reduce the number of Alternative Level of Care patients in hospitals and ease pressure on long-term care homes.
  • Integrate planning for primary care into the LHINs which will allow for better coordination of patient care, reducing the need for hospital readmissions by improving the quality of care that seniors receive in their homes.
  • Provide faster access to family health care through after hours care and same-day or next-day appointments which will mean fewer visits to hospital Emergency Rooms.
  • Adopt a patient-based funding model, where funding is based on the services provided, to allow funding to follow patients as they move through the health care system, lowering costs while improving the quality of patient care.

The recent budget also reflected what was in the Action Plan.  It calls for a number of measures to increase care for seniors in the coming three years. Among these is an increased investment -- by an average of four per cent over the next three years -- in home care and community services.  We are encouraged that this increase, along with the Action Plan’s transformative directives, will strengthen our 2012 North East LHIN goal: To realign heath care providers  to enhance quality care for fellow Northerners, ensuring a more patient-centred and community-based system of care.

This early spring, we will be working closely with our newly appointed Primary Care Lead, Dr. Tim Zmijowskyj, on engaging with primary care providers to ensure a more seamless system of care for Northerners.  

We will work on increasing the system’s focus on the patient and away from the providers. We will work to move integration forward, notably in the Districts of Cochrane and Temiskaming where we recently engaged with more than 625 people. 

We will continue to work with our community health care partners to enhance our assisted living services, transportation options, home care, and more,  so that fellow Northerners are being cared for where they want to be most – in community and at home.

We know, through our extensive engagements, that the appetite for change in health care is significant. While there is a fear of change, people have repeatedly expressed equal fear at the status quo. Change for the better is clearly needed so that people can benefit from a more integrated and quality-based system of care. 

Action must happen. Here in North East Ontario, we know an aging population with multiple complex and chronic conditions requires a better coordinated health care system with seamless transitions.

The focus of our discussions and actions is shifting from health care funding, to the design and delivery of health care.  

What would this look like in your Northeastern Ontario community? As always, I welcome your thoughts here, or you can send ideas to engagingwithyou@lhins.on.ca.

Working together, we’ll “Spring” into action!