MPP warns of 'one huge Toronto bureaucracy' as health care networks fold

Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas says she laughed when she read the press release that the Ontario government was integrating the northeast and the northwest LHINs under one roof.

Ontario announces 'administrative step' in clustering 14 LHINs into 5, absorbing 5 health agencies

France Gelinas is warning of 'mega layoffs' after Ontario announced plans to merge LHINs.

Nickel Belt MPP France Gélinas says she laughed when she read the news release that the Ontario government was integrating its health care system, particularly the part of putting care in the northeast and northwest under one roof.

"It would be one mega big roof."

According to the Ministry of Health, on December 2, 2019, five provincial agencies will begin transferring into Ontario Health, while the 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) will be clustered into five interim and transitional geographic regions.

Gélinas said although she was not a huge supporter of the LHINs, she thought abolishing them at this point would mean even less input from northern regions into how health care is provided. 

"For us to have people in Toronto making decisions as to what our health care system will look like is never a good step," Gélinas said. 

"It doesn't matter how good-hearted they are, it doesn't matter how knowledgeable they are. If they don't live in the north, if they're not connected to the north, they will make decisions that are not applicable to us who live in the north."

Gélinas said once the interim changes take effect, "a voice from the north," Rhonda Crocker Ellacott, the CEO of the Northwest LHIN, will be saddled with an area twice the geographic size of what was managed before the merger.

Crocker Ellacott has been named the regional lead for the North region cluster.

"It is very difficult to represent all of the north," Gélinas said. "What is happening in the fly-in northwest First Nations communities and what's happening in Sudbury are very different."

"How do you stay in touch with the different needs? Health Sciences North [in Sudbury] is full to capacity. Timmins is trying to [establish] a new Francophone community health centre, to people needing access to freshwater to keep their nursing station Gogama who hasn't had a nurse practitioner in a year and a half."

"All of those issues are very specific, but very important to the health and to access the health care system for people of the north," she said. "We are not moving forward."

Rhonda Crocker Ellacott has been named the transitional regional lead for the North cluster of the streamlined LHINs combining the northeast and the northwest. (Jeff Walters/CBC)

Gélinas said that these "mega-transformation" to health care agencies will also mean that workers will be focussed on making changes and transitions within their own departments, rather than concentrating on delivering health care to patients.

She is also predicting "mega layoffs" for health care workers in northern Ontario. 

"In southern Ontario you have seen that a lot of people that worked at the LHINs have found jobs with Ontario Health. But for northeastern and northwestern Ontario most people can not and don't want to move to Toronto," Gélinas said. 

"So for them, there are mega layoffs coming. We all knew that from the start and the government has made no bones about it that there will be job losses in northern Ontario." 

Ontario's Ministry of Health said they were not making anyone available to speak with CBC News.

With files from Angela Gemmill


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