Windsor-Essex hospitals, health providers to share single budget, resources
Partnership does not amount to a merger, says Hotel-Dieu Grace CEO
Health care in Ontario is undergoing a major overhaul.
You've likely heard about the first part — the merging of 20 agencies into a single entity called Ontario Health.
That merger includes Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN), government agencies that plan and fund health services for a particular geographic area.
Windsor is currently part of the Erie-St. Clair LHIN, which also includes Chatham-Kent and Sarnia-Lambton.
As a replacement for regional health planning, the Doug Ford Ontario PC government has asked local organizations — such as hospitals and home-care providers — to self-organize into "Ontario Health Teams" (OHT) that cover a specific geographic area.
Under the OHT model, individual funding for each provider will be eliminated, in favour of a single transfer to the team. From there, members will decide how to split up the money.
In Windsor-Essex, just about every health provider — including all three hospitals (Windsor Regional, Hotel-Dieu Grace and Erie Shores) — have agreed to function as a single team.
The effort is being organized by Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, whose president and CEO, Janice Kaffer, received a letter from the Ministry of Health this month indicating that the application, while not ready for approval, is considered "in development."
Read the letter below.
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Kaffer stresses that while her organization offered to lead the application, Hotel-Dieu Grace won't be in charge of the local OHT once it's created.
"Our community has agreed that it's really important that there be a shared governance model as we go forward, and that no individual agency is in charge," she said, noting that this will ensure smaller health providers won't be dominated by the larger ones such as her hospital.
"This is an opportunity for our community to re-develop and re-write the rules around health care in Windsor-Essex."
When asked if the creation of Ontario Health Teams was simply a way to allow local people — rather than the province — to decide how cuts take place, Kaffer said she wasn't concerned about that possibility at this point.
This is an opportunity for community to re-develop and re-write the rules around health care in Windsor-Essex.- Janice Kaffer, President and CEO, Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare
"We know that health care doesn't work for a lot of people ... there's an opportunity here, with a lot of support from government, to create a Windsor-Essex solution," she said. "Yes, there are possibly some challenges down the road, but those challenges are going to come anyway."
According to Kaffer, primary care providers, such as family doctors, won't be funded out of the single OHT budget, but they remain an integral part of the planning process.
"We have a working group that's going to be starting up in probably September/October, where primary care physicians as well as nurse-practitioners ... will be working with us on talking about what does it need to look like from [their perspective]."
Kaffer says she's already heard from primary care providers that they need help getting support for patients with mental health and addictions issues, as well as individuals who will be a "target population" for the local OHT, once fully approved by the province.
Tap to watch Jonathan Pinto's conversation with Janice Kaffer.
What will this mean for patients?
When asked what the implementation of a Windsor-Essex OHT will mean for a typical patient who occasionally sees their family doctor for a cold or goes to the hospital for a broken limb, Kaffer said that "very little" of the patient experience will change.
"Where the big change will be felt, is those individuals — and a lot of them are seniors — that are living in our community with multiple conditions," she said.
"The system will work for them in the background, and they will be connected in a different way because we will be connected in a different way."
Kaffer says she expects it will take at least five years for the Windsor-Essex Ontario Health Team to be fully up and running.