On June 6, 2019, the Provincial Connecting Care Act came into force. This governs a complete revision to how Health Care is managed in Ontario. The biggest change for Northumberland will be that the role of LHINs will be much reduced and replaced by Ontario Health Teams (OHTs) which will be overseen by a new agency Ontario Health. Today, Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health announced the approval of the Northumberland Ontario Health Team. The idea is that the OHTs will manage and ensure integration of all health services in a geographic area – in this case Northumberland. Or as MPP David Piccini puts it in a Press Release: “Through an Ontario Health Team, patients will experience easier transitions from one provider to another, including, for example, between hospitals and home care providers, with one patient story, one patient record and one care plan.”
The Ontario Health web site says that:
Some provincial agencies (in whole or in part) are becoming part of Ontario Health in phases. These agencies are:
- Cancer Care Ontario
- Health Quality Ontario
- eHealth Ontario
- Trillium Gift of Life Network
- Health Shared Services Ontario
- HealthForceOntario Marketing and Recruitment Agency
- 14 Local Health Integration Networks (non-home and community care functions only)
It’s not an overnight thing – it will take a while to work out the details but Northumberland is one of the first 24 teams in the province. To get to this point, a team of Northumberland Health Care providers worked together to make it happen – below is a group photo of that working committee:
And here are the current members of the Northumberland OHT.
- Local patients/caregivers
- Local primary care physicians
- Alderville First Nation
- Alzheimer Society – Peterborough, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland & Haliburton
- Campbellford Memorial Hospital
- Community Care Northumberland
- Community Health Centres of Northumberland
- Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit
- Lakeview Family Health Team
- Local community mental health and addiction services
- Local home and community care providers
- Northumberland County
- Northumberland Family Health Team
- Northumberland Hills Hospital
- The Bridge Hospice
- Trent Hills Family Health Team
To begin, the Northumberland team will focus on enhancing the coordination of health care services for rural populations – specifically those who experience significant barriers to care. Based on input and data gathered to date, year one projects include:
- Volunteer Peer Support initiative;
- Community Paramedicine;
- Rural Outreach Clinics.
- A fourth project team will focus on Digital Health.
The population served, as well as the scope of services provided, will expand over time.
Details of how funding will be organized have not been announced but the Press Release says that “Ontarians can be confident that they can continue to contact their health care providers as they always have to access the health care they need.”
When fully operational, the Ministry’s Guidance Document (as quoted by the OMA) says it will:
- Provide a full and coordinated continuum of care for a defined population within a geographic region including primary care, hospital care, community and home care, long-term care, mental health and addictions services, and palliative care services.
- Offer patients 24/7 access to coordination of care and system navigation services and work to ensure patients experience seamless transitions throughout their care journey. This does not mean that physicians are expected to be available 24/7, rather there is a patient navigator/care coordinator function required.
- Improve performance across a range of outcomes linked to the ‘Quadruple Aim’: better patient and population health outcomes; better patient, family and caregiver experience; better provider experience; and better value.
- Be measured and reported against a standardized performance framework aligned to the Quadruple Aim.
- Operate within a single, clear accountability framework.
- Be funded through an integrated funding envelope.
- Reinvest into front line care.
- Focus on digital health, in alignment with provincial digital health policies and standards, including the provision of digital choices for patients to access care and health information and the use of digital tools to communicate and share information among providers.
As well as improving health care because of better connectivity and coordination, there will also be efficiencies by having only one admin group instead of HR, IT, accounting, planning and admin staff for each entity. And the “teams” are not new hires, just existing people organized differently.