A few weeks ago, some leaked reports suggested that the PC government was considering privatizing some aspects of the healthcare system in Ontario
A new announcement today will help quell those fears, but might also lead to other questions on how this massive overhaul–which will see the creation of a super agency called Ontario Health–will affect Ontarians going forward.
Today, Health Minister Christine Elliott unveiled plans to create the new Ontario Health super agency by dissolving the 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINS) and merging them with several other provincial agencies that already exist.
Elliott reassured residents that Ontario will maintain its current public and universal healthcare system.
If the legislation is passed, the consolidation of agencies and provincial services and programs into the Ontario Health agency would be implemented over a number of years.
The organizations slated for transition include Cancer Care Ontario, Health Quality Ontario, eHealth Ontario, Trillium Gift of Life Network, Health Shared Services Ontario, HealthForce Ontario Marketing and Recruitment Agency and the LHINs.
The province says the existing LHINs and and their functions would be reorganized.
“The people of Ontario deserve a connected health care system that puts their needs first,” said Elliott. “At the same time the people of Ontario deserve peace of mind that this system is sustainable and accessible for all patients and their families, regardless of where you live, how much you make, or the kind of care you require.”
According to the province, Ontario’s new plan will, if passed, improve access to services and patient experience by:
- Organizing health care providers to work as one coordinated team, focused on patients and specific local needs. The province says patients would experience easy transitions from one health provider to another (for example, between hospitals and home care providers, with one patient story, one patient record and one care plan).
- Providing patients, families and caregivers help in navigating the public health care system, 24/7.
- Integrating multiple provincial agencies and specialized provincial programs into a single agency to provide a central point of accountability and oversight for the health care system.
- Improving access to secure digital tools, including online health records and virtual care options for patients – a 21st-century approach to health care.
The government says the change also means that patients will wait less for healthcare services. According to the province, patients will “not have to stay in beds in hospital hallways or be left to navigate between providers on their own.”
The province says Ontario Health Teams are a new way of organizing and delivering services for patients and will allow local providers to work as a connected team, taking on the work of easing transitions for patients across the continuum of care.
Over time, Ontario Health Teams should, ideally, provide seamless access to various types of health services, including primary care, hospitals, home and community care, palliative care, residential long-term care, and mental health and addictions.
The province says people will still be able to choose who provides their care and access more care choices available through technology. Patients will also have an option to securely access digital health services.
As far as costs go, Ontario is investing $3.8 billion over 10 years to “establish a comprehensive and connected system for mental health and addictions treatment, and adding 15,000 new long-term care beds over five years and 30,000 beds over 10 years.”
Specifics on cost savings associated with the changes are not yet known. It’s also not yet clear if the restructuring will lead to layoffs or job losses.