PEFHT positioned well for systemic change, executive director says

Korzeniowski says patient care will remain central focus




With the provincial government planning sweeping changes to Ontario’s health-care system, Prince Edward Family Health Team (PEFHT) executive director Debbie Korzeniowski believes her organization is well positioned.

Korzeniowski was among the health-care professionals watching closely late last month when Minister of Health and Long-Term Care Christine Elliott announced her plan to amalgamate several health delivery agencies, including Local Health Integration Networks into one called Ontario Health and introduce 30-50 regional health-teams to care for up to $300,000 people each in a professionals-driven process.

Looking forward – Prince Edward Family Health Team executive director Debbie Korzeniowski has already started having discussions with other health-care providers in anticipation of changes in the way Ontario delivers patient care. (Submitted photo)

While acknowledging that Elliott’s Feb. 26 announcement was vague in nature, Korzeniowski said Prince Edward County’s primary care providers expected they would one day be asked to enter into service delivery partnerships, they’re just not sure of the when or how. That belief has prompted a range of discussions.

“Even prior to the announcement, I had been proactive in reaching out to the hospitals in our area and talking with other community health services providers,” she said. “We were out having preliminary discussions long before Elliott announced anything and we’ll continue to do that.”

She said primary care providers are in a good position because over the years, they have had to build partnerships with community care partners and with hospitals to fulfill their ultimate patient-care responsibilities. That’s led to creativity and helped the PEFHT develop a robust network.

Korzeniowski does have some concern about that 300,000 number because it might mean that the PEFHT will have to beyond the borders of Prince Edward County to find solutions for the patients it cares for.

“Locally, we have an advantage of knowing our residents, disease profiles and health needs. We always meet the patient where they’re at with the goal to providing health care to have the best possible life experience at home.”

While Korzeniowski said there has been a lot of discussion and conjecture about whether LHINs were able to achieve their mandate of co-ordinating care, the process of replacing them will be critical to ensuring patients don’t fall through the cracks of the system moving forward. She added she isn’t fearful of the future because the people in the health system understand and align with the goal of patient-centered care.

“There’s always a potential in the system for lack of clarity. We are in the community space to provide care and I think we can sort out what that means by watching the patient through their experiences or journey,” she said. “The government will be trying to watch those transitions, like coming out of the hospital, to ensure there is a good mechanism to make sure we stay on our recovery.”

Korzeniowski said she doesn’t have any inside track on when the government might consider expressions of interest or proposals for the new Ontario Health Teams, but said she doesn’t believe the sector will wait.

“The government would anticipate we’re ready to mobilize to find different ways of working and that’s the reality. It’s a proactive industry, health care, that’s for sure. We have to be anticipating that’s going to come and we need to be ready,” she said. “The government has been clear the integration they’re looking for is going to take years and Ontario Health will have growing pains — I’m sure it will — but patients still need care. We’ll keep all of that in our crosshairs and continue forward.”

According to Korzeniowski, there is a lot of information about the future of health care available on the South East LHIN web site and she encourages community members to send their questions to the PEFHT. While health-care professionals will be tasked with building a better model, they will need input.

“We are partnering with the community. They have a role to play with us. We want to make sure wherever possible we get their input and hear from them.” She said. “We’re doing our best to be prepared and ready and we’re always thankful to the community for the support they give to us at the same time.”