County part of new Ontario Health Team initiative

Deputy Premier and Minister of Health Christine Elliott. (Jason Parks/Gazette Staff)

A new, integrated and regional approach to surrounding patients with the healthcare they need at the appropriate time and place was unveiled by the Ministry of Health Friday.

Ontario’s Health Minister Christine Elliott was in Tweed to announce as part of its plan to end hallway health care and build an integrated health care system centred on the needs of patients, the Ontario government in partnership with Ontario Health is developing eight new Ontario Health Teams (OHT) located across the province. The province will provide up to $9 million in funding over the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 fiscal years to support these teams in their efforts to seamlessly coordinate health care services for patients and ensure the province’s health care system can respond to any scenario as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve. Among the eight teams will be the Hastings Prince Edward OHT in Hastings and Prince Edward Counties.

“Throughout the pandemic, Ontario Health Teams have been an essential part of the province’s COVID-19 response, working quickly across all partners to support each other and protect the health and safety of Ontarians,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “These new eight teams will build on the progress made to date by improving outcomes for even more patients and making it easier for Ontarians to navigate their health care journey during COVID-19 and in the future.”

Locally and in its initial year, the Hastings Prince Edward OHT will focus its efforts on improving care for people living with mental health and addictions challenges, as well as residents requiring home and community supports. In response to COVID-19, the team will also focus on residents who are marginalized, including those living in rural and isolated areas or who are experiencing homelessness. To learn and adapt to the communities they serve, partners have adopted a governance structure that includes a Patient Partnership Action Team with three patient advocates guiding their direction with support from hospital and community health centre senior leadership member The other seven new Ontario Health Teams are in areas such as Cornwall, West Ottawa, Renfrew County, Grey-Bruce, Barrie, Elgin County and North Simcoe. Minister Elliot explained OHTs are part of a new approach to health care that brings together health care providers as one collaborative team. Working together, they ensure that patients experience easier transitions with one patient story, one patient record and one care plan that is shared between the health care providers. With the addition of these new teams, the province now has a total of 50 Ontario Health Teams which will cover 92 per cent of the province’s population at maturity.

“It is integral that our approach to health care is centred upon what Ontarians really need. As the health system evolves, Ontario Health Teams will be critical in creating a system centred on meaningful partnership and co-design with patients, families and caregivers,” said Betty-Lou Kristy, Chair of the Minister’s Patient and Family Advisory Council. “I look forward to supporting teams to build a connected and integrated health care system that is focused on improving the health care journey for all Ontarians.”

Thanks to these efforts to better coordinate care and share resources, Ontario Health Teams have been able to respond more quickly and effectively to the COVID-19 pandemic. Working across the entire continuum of care, teams have supported a suite of initiatives that include leading local vaccine rollouts, supporting long-term care homes and other congregate care settings, distributing personal protective equipment, staffing assessment centres and leveraging virtual care. This announcement marks an important milestone in transforming the programs and services delivered across our community. Over time and by working together, the HPE-OHT will remove barriers across 46 local health care providers, physicians and community organizations all striving to meet the health and wellness needs of people no matter which door they enter or where care is provided, across both counties. This is the first step in a multi-year transformation; the programs, providers and services our communities rely on will remain the same as organizations begin to work together.

“Creating this new Ontario Health Team will organize and deliver services to seniors more effectively. It will ensure that when seniors need assistance, they can get it quickly. Caring for seniors is going to be a continuing priority for the new Team,” said Debbie MacDonald Moynes, Executive Director of The Prince Edward County Community Care for Seniors Association.