Ontario's Liberal government has introduced legislation aimed at improving patient care which calls for some major changes to the $50-billion health care system.

The 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) set up by the Liberals will be given an expanded role while the Community Care Access Centres (CCACs) created by the previous Tory government will be shut down.

The LHINs will be responsible for primary care, home and community care, which the government says will improve and integrate delivery of front-line services.

They will also get additional responsibility for "planning and performance" of primary care providers, including doctors, who have been locked in a lengthy battle with the Liberals over a new fee schedule.

Health Minister Eric Hoskins isn't prepared to put a number on it, but says he expects "significant savings" from getting rid of the CCACs, and expects most of the front-line staff will "be moved over" to the LHINS.

Hoskins says the legislation also formalizes the relationship between public health units, boards of health and the LHINs, and will help integrate the different parts of the health-care system.

files from Keith Leslie