Govt. unveils plan to change Ontario’s home care system

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The Ontario government unveiled plans that will change the way publicly-funded home care is provided going forward.

Home-care patients have long complained that Ontario’s system is complicated, and the new plan is intended to address those issues.

Health Minister Christine Elliott promised that the experience with these changes will be a lot better for patients.

“They (patients) will know what to expect, they will know who to call if things don’t happen exactly as they’re supposed, they will know what to do if complications arise,” she added.

Ministry officials described the reforms as changing how home and community care is delivered, not changing what care is delivered.

When asked about the cost of the changes, Elliott said, “In the long term I believe it will end up saving the government money in terms of helping to reduce hallway health care.”

The home care reforms are part of a bigger Ford government initiative to end hallway medicine. The government’s hope is that better home care will get patients out of hospital sooner, and reduce re-admissions, relieving pressure on Ontario’s overcrowded hospitals.

A key part of the changes focuses on the 4,000 nursing staff known as “care coordinators” who assess patients for their home care needs. The reforms would allow those coordinators to work in hospitals and directly with family doctors’ offices, instead of the current model that places them in Ontario’s regional health bureaucracies, known as Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs).

Agencies that provide home care have been critical of the existing system over communication breakdowns.

These concerns have been addressed as it improves communication between home-care providers and the rest of the health system thus reducing the risks of patients falling through the cracks.

The current Local Health Integration Network structure to deliver services will stay in place for the next few years but will eventually be rebranded as Home and Community Care Support Services.

The officials said the ultimate goal is to bring the system under the government’s new Ontario Health Team approach of coordinated, community-based care. -CINEWS

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