"There’s going to be fewer people to help you with your inquiries, and then being further away, they may not even know where you are" — Timmins MPP Gilles Bisson
Health Minister Christine Elliott issued the order Wednesday to bring five health entities including Cancer Care Ontario and eHealth Ontario under the umbrella of a new super agency called Ontario Health.
The minister also clustered the 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) into five “interim and transitional geographic regions” under the management of five CEOS.
As a result of these measures, the North East LHIN is being merged with the North West LHIN. The newly formed North district health entity will be headed by Rhonda Crocker Ellacott, who was CEO of the North West LHIN.
Nine LHIN CEOs, including North East LHIN CEO Jérémy Stevenson, were let go at a total severance cost of about $3 million.
While the government says these moves will end duplicate administrative costs and ensure more seamless patient care, critics of the plan have questioned whether a new large health organization might have the opposite effect.
“A large concern for a lot of Northern municipalities and caregivers is that once you … have a health authority that is the size of Northern Ontario … it’s going to be difficult for people to be able to find themselves in that system,” MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP — Timmins) told The Daily Press.
“What do you do if you’re living in Iroquois Falls or Timmins or Matheson and all of a sudden you have a home-care problem or you have a problem with a loved one being able to access some health service? Who the heck do you call?
“And if you do find somebody, there’s going to be fewer people to help you with your inquiries, and then being further away, they may not even know where you are or what this is all about?”
Bisson said only time will tell if the moves achieve the government’s stated goals of enhancing the efficiency of Ontario’s health-care system. However, he expressed doubts about the government’s motives.
“Obviously, anything that can be done in order to make our system more efficient is a good thing,” said Bisson. “However, I don’t believe this has a lot to do about efficiencies. This has a lot to do with government moving in a way that will provide a better opportunity to privatize much of our system.”
Ontario’s health minister described the moves announced Wednesday as a cautious interim step to avoid disruptions for patients as preparations continue to move the LHINs under Ontario Health and community and home-care providers to local Ontario Health teams.
“We know that the status quo is not acceptable, that our present system is just not sustainable with a rapidly growing aging population that’s already under tremendous strain, and that it’s also not providing the care that people expect and deserve,” Elliott told Postmedia.
“We know that there are patients that are not followed when they leave hospital, that they may need home care and that it’s not happening in the way it should with the result that many people don’t get home care in a timely manner and end up back in hospital emergency departments with complications.
“So we want to create a patient-centred system of health care and … this next step in an important step in bringing that about,” she said.
Bisson conceded, “Any government that doesn’t try to find ways of making the system more efficient is not doing their job. Our job is to provide public services at cost to the people of Ontario in the best way possible and trying to find ways to make it more efficient is something we should all strive for.
“But I very much fear this is not what’s at the bottom of all of this. You just have to look at what they’ve done so far in various services around healthcare and education.”
— With files from Antonella Artuso.