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Durham is getting its own health team

By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express

Durham Region will be taking the lead with its own Ontario Health Team.

Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott was recently at Grandview Children’s Centre to announce the team.

The Durham Ontario Health Team is one of the first 24 entities in the province’s new model of organizing and delivering health care units.

The goal is for healthcare organizations to better connect with patients and providers in their communities, and to improve patient outcomes.

Elliott told the crowd she was excited to be back in Durham, noting her son received therapy services at Grandview.

“I think I mentioned at some point along the way that I was interested in the organization, and next thing I knew I was on the board,” she said. “But it was a wonderful experience, I have many many happy memories of being here at Grandview.”

She said many patients are feeling disconnected in a “fractured healthcare system,” and change is a long time coming.

“It was only a short time ago that our [Conservative] government was elected,” she said. “And an even shorter time ago that the People’s Health Care Act was passed.”
Elliott explained with the act now passed, the legislation enables the creation of the Ontario Health Teams.

“The scope and scale of our transformation , however, has only really been made possible by the enthusiasm, the experience, the knowledge, and the dedication of all of our healthcare professionals,” she said.

To Elliott, while people in Ontario are fortunate to have strong healthcare professionals, they also deal with capacity pressures.

“Across Ontario, some patients and families are actually getting lost in the system – they’re falling through the cracks, waiting too long to get the care and supports they need,” she said. “That is why our government did make a commitment to the people of Ontario to build a sustainable and connected public health care system focused both on the needs of patients, and on ending hallway healthcare.”

Elliott said there are four pillars to the provinces health plan to end hallway healthcare.

The first pillar is prevention and health promotion to keep patients as healthy as possible in communities, and keep them out of the hospital.

The second is providing the right care in the right place.  According to Elliott, this pillar will ensure patients receive care in the most appropriate setting, which isn’t necessarily always at the hospital.

Integration and improved patient flow is the third pillar, and Elliott said this will better integrate care providers to help patients spend less time waiting in hospitals when they’re ready to be discharged.

Finally, the fourth pillar is building capacity. The province hopes to build new hospital and long-term care beds, and also increase community based services across the province.

She also said the Durham team will create 24/7 navigation and care coordination services for patients.

“This will of course be implemented in phases, so that eventually, after the initial targets have been reached, you are going to be able to spread out the care to make sure that all the people living within your geographic area are going to be able to receive services from Durham community health teams,” she said.

Matt Anderson, president and CEO at Lakeridge Health, said he is proud to be a member of the Durham Ontario Health Team.

“It’s a remarkable opportunity for us to redesign our local health system, and re-imagine healthcare delivery all across Durham Region,” said Anderson. “To improve access for patients and families, and caregivers and in our local community, and to create opportunities to work in more collaborative fashion together.”

The team made up of 17 Durham-based organizations submitted its application earlier last month.

Organizations involved with the proposal include Alzheimer Society Durham Region; Community Care Durham; Lakeridge Health; Grandview Children’s Centre; Carea Community Health Centre; March of Dimes Canada; Durham Region; and VON Durham, among others.

The initial focus of the team will be on improving service delivery and care for two high needs groups: older adults living with frailty and individuals living with complex conditions (including children and youth), with a focus on mental health and addictions.

The team also includes plans for improving home and community care anda ccess to digital health. As the Durham OHT evolves, a patient partnering office will be established, which will offer standardization for patient experience processes and improve coordination and system-navigation services so patients are able to access care when and where they need it.