By Sue Tiffin
Health services organizations in Haliburton County are responding to plans to transform the provincial health system through significant changes by the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care by proposing a unified Haliburton Highlands Ontario Health Team.
Bill 74 the People’s Health Care Act received royal assent in April this year.
“The goals of the legislation are to help improve the experience of patients and clients across the health system in Ontario to create a more connected more seamless system to improve transitions in care to improve health outcomes and to help people to be able to better navigate the system” Carolyn Plummer president and CEO of Haliburton Highlands Health Services told county councillors at a May 22 council meeting.
Two major changes are expected according to Plummer: one is the creation of a single agency called Ontario Health which brings together a number of provincial agencies under one umbrella the second is the establishment of Ontario Health Teams intended to connect health providers within different communities across the province to bring services together and provide a full and coordinated continuum of care specifically for patients and families in local areas.
Services do not need to be co-located and organizations do not necessarily need to integrate as single entities. The goal said Plummer is improved health outcomes improved experience and better value for money.
“We had a number of local health service provider organizations come together when the legislation was first introduced and when the expression of interest first came out a number of groups came together almost right away here in Haliburton to start talking about how we wanted to address this” said Plummer.
Initially the ministry described OHTs to be put in place in communities with populations of 50000 to 300000 but later dropped the low-range requirement.
A decision was made locally to focus specifically on a Haliburton Highlands Ontario Health Team as opposed to partnering with other broader larger communities beyond county borders according to Plummer and the group submitted a self-assessment proposing the HHOHT last week.
“In part the decision was made because of the commitment of the partners around the table we certainly had a very very strong level of commitment from everybody who came together to move forward with this assessment” she said.
A joint media release issued by eight local health services organizations reads:
“The proposed HHOHT would bring together as partners various local health services providers who already have extensive experience working together to provide comprehensive and integrated health care and developing innovative solutions to improve access to care for the Haliburton Highlands population. Building on previous collaborations such as the Rural Health Hub and Youth Wellness Hub the HHOHT partners represent the full spectrum of health services including hospital primary care home care community services mental health long-term care and midwifery services.”
Partners include Haliburton Highlands Health Services Haliburton Highlands Family Health Team Kawartha North Family Health Team Midwifery Services of Haliburton-Bancroft Point in Time Centre for Children Youth and Parents Extendicare Paramed and CarePartners.
“The partners that have come together here in Haliburton Highlands represent the full spectrum of health services and we’re very proud to be able to say that” Plummer told councillors.
According to government timelines after assessments are validated and reviewed shortlisted organizations will be approved early-June and can submit a full application due mid-July. The ministry will make site visits prior to first OHTs being designated in fall 2019.