County CAO Wallace provides outlook on Ontario Health Teams

 

DESIRÉE DECOSTE

STAFF WRITER

Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the County of Prince Edward Marcia Wallace gave a presentation to local Rotarians earlier this month concerning Ontario Health Teams (OHT).

With patients, clients, caregivers and other partners experiencing barriers, gaps and navigation difficulties in the healthcare system today, the OHT was introduced by the Ministry of Health in 2019 to create one collaborative and integrated system of care.

“Why the interest in the new model in the first place?” Wallace asked Rotary Club of Picton. “There was a lot of interest in this model . This idea of integrated care, thinking about the health system from the client or the patient, care givers, etc. and really looking at how they would navigate the system, where do they see the gaps, where do they see the struggles and make it less about the organizations and the big structure and more about the outcomes we’re trying to get to.”

Regional OHTs are creating an integrated system centred on the needs of patients with all organizations involved remaining in place but committing to exploring new ways to improve local services through partnerships.

Wallace explained the OHT roll out was the  first attempt the CAO has seen that really tries integrate all of the organizations and governments and answer the difficult and nagging questions that stands between patients and the timely health services they need.  

Currently, there are 51 OHT’s across the Ontario that are providing a new way of organizing and delivering care that is more connected to patients in their local communities. Under Ontario Health Teams, health care providers (including hospitals, doctors and home and community care providers) work as one coordinated team – no matter where they provide care.

Providers and organizations eligible to become an Ontario Health Team include, but are not limited to, those that provide; primary, secondary and home care; community support services; mental health and addictions services; health promotion and disease prevention services; rehabilitation and complex care; palliative care (e.g., hospice); residential care and short-term transitional care (e.g., in supportive housing, long-term care homes, retirement homes); long-term care home placement; emergency health services; laboratory and diagnostic services; midwifery services, and other social and community services and other services, as needed by the population.

“If you start with the person you’re trying to help, I think that is something that everyone in healthcare and social services can relate to, so this integrated system, focusing on the needs of patients/clients and their care givers and adjusting our lens so the doctors and health professionals have a very valid perspective. It doesn’t always lineup with those who provide community supports or those who are the family members trying to navigate a system and not understanding it. As a municipal employee who used to work at for the province, there are lots of times when I talk to someone and they have no idea what my title is because they don’t understand what that is, they think municipality is about bylaw and the province is maybe about healthcare. The average person doesn’t need to understand our systems and our structures, they need to get the services they depend on, and it’s really not for the individual to try to navigate all this. You have to make it easier for people and when you’re talking about healthcare, that’s a much higher risk then even other areas of government if you don’t know how to navigate.”

CAO Maria Wallace. (Submitted Photo)

Hastings Prince Edward OHT PARTNERS include:

  • Addictions Mental Health – Hastings Prince Edward
  • Alzheimer’s Society – Hastings Prince Edward 
  • Bancroft Community Family Health Team 
  • Bancroft Family Health Organization 
  • Belleville and Quinte West Community Health Centre 
  • Belleville Queen’s Family Health Organization 
  • Belleville Nurse Practitioner Led Clinic 
  • Brighton Quinte West Family Health Organization 
  • Care North Hastings 
  • Central Hastings Family Health Team 
  • Central Hastings Family Health Organization 
  • Cheshire Homes – Hastings Prince Edward 
  • Children Mental Health Services Community Care for Central Hastings 
  • Community Care for Seniors 
  • Community Care for South Hastings 
  • Enrichment Centre for Mental Health 
  • Gateway Community Health Centre 
  • Hastings County 
  • Heart of Hastings Hospice 
  • Home and Community Care Support Services South East
  • Hospice Prince Edward 
  • Hospice Quinte
  • Hastings Prince Edward Public Health 
  • Lakeview Family Health Team 
  • Local Health Integration Network
  • Local Physicians 
  • MBQ Indigenous Inter professional Primary Care 
  • North Hastings Hospice 
  • Ontario Provincial Police 
  • Pathways to Independence
  • PEC Community Care for Seniors Association 
  • Prince Edward Family Health Team 
  • Prince Edward County
  • Peer Support South East Ontario 
  • Providence Care 
  • Quinte Health Care 
  • Queen’s Family Health Team 
  • Queen’s Family Health Organization 
  • Quinte Midwives 
  • Quinte Rehab
  • Reseau des Services de Sante en Francais – ON 
  • United Way – Hastings Prince Edward 
  • Victoria Order of Nurses 
  • Youth Habilitation Quinte

Wallace sits on a regional stewardship council representing the municipal sector that includes members from primary and community health service providers and the body is very much in its early days.

“We are in the process of building this organization and this structure so there has been lot of action teams, some of them are single point so a communications action team when this first got announced, or an action team trying to develop a website. Others are more permanent, so we have a primary care council which is trying to knit together all the doctors,” Wallace said. “In Prince Edward County,  we benefit from a family health team that works really collaboratively together, staffs our hospital emergency and is very coordinated. Unfortunately, not all of the Quinte area has that and they don’t always talk to each other, so connecting all the doctors together and the primary care workers beyond doctors that work in that space is what the primary council is about.”

Wallace added the OHT in Eastern Ontario is a bit of a late bloomer with most OHT’s having been launched in the Greater Toronto area and over in Southwest Ontario where some larger municipalities are located as early as 2019. The local OHT is uniquely diverse as a rural/urban team with decision-making by scale to encourage consensus.

“What’s interesting about our OHT is that it is very definitely a mix of rural and urban,” said Wallace. “We have a pretty good working relationship, I know that not all of our neighbours in our surrounding area counties have had as good a relationship as they navigate this rural/urban split but ours seems to be working out really well. And decision making is very different then anything, those of you who work in the not-for-profit or have volunteered on boards might recognize some of this but its very different outside normal structures that we might expect that are supported and funded by government. Because we could create our own structure decision making is done by consensus, so it’s trying to encourage a way for people to identify their level of support for an initiative and try to move forward on something recognizing you’re never going to get everybody on the same page but how do you distribute leadership and authority to make decisions, so very different then say the way a government or a council or a board might normally have.”

The local OHT’s first year focus is on mental health and addiction services integration with primary care and calls to strengthen the local primary care network, have timely equitable access to home care services and COVID vaccine rollout including marginalized populations.

“It’s seeded by over $1 million Ministry of Health money, given in instalments over the first 18 months,” Wallace said. “So were not at a stage where any of the organizations are putting any money on the table its coming from the province and what we’re seeing is an increasing number of funding calls.  Calls around digital health work or integration funding is all coming through OHT so it’s really important we build a strong OHT because it will be the primary variable  for how healthcare will be funded in the future. One of the milestones of late was hiring a strategic implementation lead so now OHT has a bit more of a backbone and there are some vacant positions for some coordination and communication roles to increase the outreach to the community so people know this exists and they can be part of it and help it move forward.”

Wallace added where they’re at with the motions she put forward.

“I am representing PEC at this steering committee table as we start to build this collaborative team,” said Wallace. “We signed a collaborative relationship charter and the mayor signed that on behalf of the County so that we are a partner in this exercise, and we are working with the larger group to see where we can support in things like the survey as a concrete example and add to the momentum around the initial stages of development.”

For more information on OHT please visit https://health.gov.on.ca/en/pro/programs/connectedcare/oht/