By John Swartz
The Ontario government is reorganizing the delivery of health care and Friday the Couchiching Ontario Health Team became one of 24 organizations in Ontario to begin operation. Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop said it was a great day.
“Today is a significant day for the future of health care right here in Couchiching,” said Dunlop. The strategy is to provide seamless care throughout the various agencies and institutions.
“We all know our health care system is facing capacity pressure, patients and families are getting lost in the health care system,” she said. “These teams will better support patients and families by connecting care providers to work as a single team.”
“This is an exciting time for health care in Ontario as we break down the long-standing barriers that have prevented care providers to work directly with each other to support patients throughout their health care journey.”
Several dozen people attended the announcement at the Couchiching Family Health Team Memorial Avenue offices. The government wants to make it easier for people to, “navigate the system and transition between providers.” They hope to do this with better coordination from the first visit to a doctor, to anything involving hospitalization, rehab, palliative care, to ongoing car in long-term or retirement homes, and labs, other services and the various agencies involved.
Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital CEO, Carmine Stumpo, said there was a conference involving 100 people from 30 organizations at Geneva Park which lead to the decision to apply to become a designated health team.
“We know our team is ready to move forward and with today’s announcement we are very happy that the ministry of health agrees with us,” said Stumpo.
Dr. Kim McIntosh, who practices at the Couchiching Family Health Team, spoke about how her organization already practices many of the aspects of the Ontario objective and how it affects her work.
“Long before there was such a thing as Ontario Health Teams, when I first came to town, there was such collegiality and approach to health care across the board that made my work life balance wonderful,” Dr. McIntosh said. “The family health team has really extended over time to create an environment in which I can work well and efficiently and at a high level of quality.” She said the local model involved something called care tables were Couchiching’s affiliated doctors and service providers worked together.
“That transition to care tables started many years ago to address a problem in our community,” she said. “That transition to care tables very easily morphed into the Couchiching sub-region planning table.”
One aspect of the new health care plan is to roll in physician recruitment many communities like Orillia have taken on. This has been a particular concern for Ramara Township Deputy Mayor John O’Donnell who attended the announcement.
“We have one family physician in Brechin, Dr. Brand, he is headed to retirement. Every doctor the doctor recruitment brings to Orillia is a help to all our ratepayers,” said O’Donnell. He tried to convince Ramara Township council to contribute $10,000 annual for 5 years to the doctor recruitment committee, but council only opted to put up $6,000 in 2019.
The City of Orillia was involved in the effort to submit application to the province for the designation.
“What this opportunity does, it brings all those people together and I am seeing genuine excitement from people that have been involved in the health industry for decades and they are genuinely excited by the potential change this can bring and by the synergies that will work together and the improvements that will come,” said Clarke. “This is basically an opportunity to customize healthcare delivery to an area, and that’s exactly what we are doing.”
The new model serving Orillia, Rama and surrounding townships will replace the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network, which manages health care delivery and spending in a region stretching from Barrie to Huntsville. Neither the health team nor Dunlop had any information regarding funding amounts.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia) Main: Simcoe North MPP Jill Dunlop at Friday’s announcement, with help from attorney general Doug Downey .