Hamilton among 1st cities to implement 'health team' under Ontario Health
Hamilton is 1 of 24 new health teams across the province
Hamilton will be among the first cities in Ontario to undergo the provincial government's major changes to its health system and establish a "Hamilton health team" to deliver care.
The Hamilton health team, the city says, will include representatives from more than 20 health and social services organizations.
Among the organizations involved — which represent areas such as primary care, long-term care, mental health, and Indigenous health — are the Children's Aid Society, Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board, St. Joseph's, McMaster University, city departments, and others.
A full list of the organizations involved is available on the health team's website.
Ontario's Minister of Health Christine Elliott announced Hamilton's acceptance on Tuesday at the David Braley Health Sciences Centre. Hamilton will be one of 24 teams under the new super agency of Ontario Health, which consolidates the province's 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and six health agencies.
The change, the province said, is to introduce a new way of delivering care to have providers be more connected to patients.
The city echoed this statement, as did the two patient advocates who will co-chair the team — John Fleming and Bernice King.
In the city's media release, Fleming called the team a "remarkable opportunity to redesign and rebuild health care," and improve access for patients, while King noted the potential for patients to address problems in the health care system.
Hamilton's health team submitted its expression of interest to be an "early implementer" of the team model in May 2019, and continued efforts in the fall with a full application and ministry site visit.
The city said the team will expand on initiatives in progress to address hallway healthcare, including 24/7 navigation and care coordination services for patients and families and increasing access to digital tools, like virtual visits and health records.
The city and province said that the first year of work will focus on the city's three priority populations: adults and children with mental health, addiction concerns and older adults with multiple chronic conditions.
No further details on how the team will function have been revealed. In the province's release, Elliott said that patients would benefit from a "seamless experience" where providers work directly with each other.
"The Hamilton Ontario health team will play an essential role in delivering on our commitment to end hallway health care and building a connected and sustainable public health care system centred around the needs of patients," she said.
In an emailed statement, MPP for Hamilton West-Ancaster-Dundas Sandy Shaw, cautioned that the changes won't necessarily mean that everything will run more smoothly.
"People wait hours in overcrowded ERs, and the wait lists for long-term care have been ballooning. But Doug Ford's health care changes take things from bad to worse," she said. "The creation of the new, massive health regions and a central super bureaucracy is siphoning money away from patient care — even while Ford is under funding health care. That's a recipe for the hallway medicine crisis to get worse."
The city noted that at this time, there are "no immediate changes or impacts for patients or healthcare providers."
Mississauga is the only other Ontario health team that has been announced to date.