June 6, 2012

Dear fellow Northerners,

Health care is something that affects each and every one of us, whether directly when we need help or indirectly through our families and friends when they get sick.

Here in the North East we are blessed with hard working and dedicated Health Service Providers who are passionate about helping people.  These frontline workers and the organizations they serve are united in their desire to do their best for Northerners.  Their care and devotion is without question.

However, our demographics and population needs are changing. We need to better balance our investments in acute care or hospital care with those in community care including assisted living. Actually, I’ve yet to meet a Northerner who wants our local health care system to remain exactly the same. They want health care providers to work together and help them through the transitions of care as they grow older.

Albert Einstein once said “We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” The same could be said in terms of needing to think differently as we consider today’s challenges in our efforts to shift care in a different direction.

We need to challenge ourselves to be bold and to think differently in planning a system that is more responsive to the needs of the frail elderly.

I also often take heart, in another saying from Einstein: “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity.”

Together we can create a better system of care. But we’ve got to move from focusing solely on the problems to thinking about solutions.

In the past year, we’ve heard from literally thousands of Northerners. You’ve given us a lot of ideas on what can be improved, what’s missing, and the areas we need to focus on.

Right now we are in the process of drafting a plan that will map out our priorities for the next three years, from 2013 to 2016. We’ve distilled all our community engagements, face-to-face meetings and surveys into these four priorities:

  • Increasing primary care coordination 
  • Enhancing coordination and transitions of care 
  • Facilitating realignment and system transformation 
  • Making mental health and addition programs and services more accessible 

We think enhancing access to care for special population groups such as Francophone and Aboriginals is critical. We know that ehealth and the use of technology is a great enabler. And attracting and retaining highly qualified health care professionals is key to our success.

These priorities and enablers reflect what we’ve heard from you. But before going too far ahead we want to check in again. Are these the right ones or do you have other ideas?

We know you want a better, more integrated system of care here in the north – one that offers quality and safe  care when you need it. And we can only create a plan by hearing from you.

If you have a moment please take the time to fill out this short survey (click here). We value what you have to say. When it comes to thinking about health care, everyone is an expert because you know what you and your families need. 

Finally, I invite you to join me and Minister Matthews for coffee on June 19th— for a Virtual Coffee Break -- to  hear from our panelists on some of the ways healthy change is happening here in Northeastern Ontario.

Here’s to summer!!