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Ontario minister says cutting jobs is not the intent of new health-care legislation

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says the intent of new health-care legislation introduced this week that will create a super-agency is not to reduce jobs but to improve patient care.

Health Minister Christine Elliott says many jobs 'will still continue to be necessary'

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott announced the provincial government's plan to overhaul the health-care system in Toronto on Tuesday. She says the intent of the plan is not to reduce jobs. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott says the intent of new health-care legislation introduced this week is not to reduce jobs but to improve patient care.

In an interview with CBC Radio's Metro Morning, Elliott said the health-care system is "broken" and the consolidation of agencies that will occur through the legislation tabled in the Ontario Legislature on Tuesday will help to fix it. 

Under the People's Health Care Act, 2019, the provincial government would create a new agency called Ontario Health. The super-agency will be formed by dissolving the province's 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and merging their duties with those of six other health agencies, including Cancer Care Ontario and eHealth Ontario.

"We are not looking at reducing jobs," she said.

The agencies collectively employ some 10,500 people. Elliott said Wednesday that thousands of workers will be included in the new super-agency.

Ontario's health care system is getting a makeover. As CBC first reported in January, that means dissolving the 14 Local Health Integration Networks or LHINs - and merging them with six other provincial health agencies, including Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario and Trillium Gift of Life Network. According to the Progressive Conservatives, the new agency - called Ontario Health - will result in better integrated system that puts patients' needs first. But will it curb long wait times and end hallway medicine? Christine Elliott, Ontario's Minister of Health and Long Term Care joins us to explain all the changes, and what it means for people in Ontario. 11:52

"What we are looking at is improving patient efficiency. We are restructuring the system in many respects, moving people into different positions within that structure, because the way things are operating within the LHIN structure, it's not working right now. And providers are operating in silos. We want to break down those silos.

"What we are saying is a lot of those jobs will still continue to be necessary."

Health Minister Christine Elliott greets patients at Bridgepoint Active Healthcare before making an announcement in Toronto. (Tijana Martin/Canadian Press)

For example, she said, when the province creates local Ontario Health teams, those teams will need "supports, certainly." And within the LIHNs, she said, "excellent people" providing home care services will continue to do their work.

Patient care won't be interrupted

She said patient care will not be interrupted as the provincial government creates local teams to co-ordinate care and patients should know that they will continue to have access to their local health care providers.

"They don't need to change anything in that respect. As we transition, we are transitioning gradually so that patient care will not be affected," she said.

"We want people to experience no changes in their immediate care, but better care as we bring the system to maturity because their health-care providers will be connected for their benefit. And people will have one number to call. There will be no gaps."

The transformation of the health-care system will take time, she emphasized.

Ontario Health teams, she added, will be made up of local service providers that already exist and organized to work as a co-ordinated group.

For example, a team could be made up of a local hospital, a home care agency and a mental health service provider that "come together, make an application to the larger body, Ontario Health, to become responsible for their geographic area and provide care."

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says she is worried that the super agency will allow for contracting of health services to the private sector. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

As for concerns raised by NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, Elliott said the provincial government is not trying to increase privatization in the health-care system.

"What is necessary and what we are doing is to centre care around patients, integrate care for them, and have them continue to pay for their services using their OHIP card. We are not intending to advance privatization. That is not the intention of this legislation."

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath has said she is worried that the super-agency will allow for contracting of health services to the private sector. 

Six agencies that will be consolidated under Ontario Health, in addition to the 14 LHINs, are: 

  • Cancer Care Ontario. 
  • eHealth Ontario. 
  • Trillium Gift of Life Network. 
  • Health Shared Services. 
  • Health Quality Ontario.
  • HealthForce Ontario Marketing and Recruitment Agency. 

Patients have felt 'disconnected'

A year and a half ago, Elliott experienced Ontario health care firsthand when she was in hospital with a serious head injury. On Wednesday, she said she received excellent care, although other patients told her that they would have appreciated "more connection" once they went home following rehabilitation.

"We know that there is only so much that the system currently can provide."

When she was Ontario's patient ombudsman, she said the number one concern was that patients felt "disconnected" from the health-care system, particularly as they went from hospital to home care or hospital to long-term care.

"That is what we are going to fix with this legislation and this new system."

With files from Metro Morning

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