Ford government creating Ontario Health super-agency

The Doug Ford government is creating a central agency called Ontario Health to oversee the province’s $60-billion health-care system.

The super-agency — unveiled Tuesday by Health Minister Christine Elliott — will be formed by dissolving the 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and merging their duties with those of six provincial health agencies, including Cancer Care Ontario and eHealth Ontario.

CBC News was first to reveal the health-system merger plans with a report in January on the provincial government’s intention to dissolve the LHINs. Since then, leaked documents obtained by the NDP, including draft legislation, revealed more about the changes the government was considering.

Six agencies that will be consolidated under Ontario Health, in addition to the 14 LHINs, are:

  • Cancer Care Ontario.
  • eHealth Ontario.
  • Trillium Gift of Life Network.
  • Health Shared Services.
  • Health Quality Ontario.
  • HealthForce Ontario Marketing and Recruitment Agency.

Elliott said Tuesday that work overhauling the system will begin in the spring, but it will take years for it “to become mature.”

Elliott also unveiled details of her plans to encourage hospitals, long-term care facilities, home-care agencies and other health service providers to form “integrated care entities.”

The Ontario Health Teams will be made up of local health-care providers and organized to work as a co-ordinated group, Elliott said. The teams will be built to “guide patients” among various care providers and help families through transitions between providers.

“They would take the guesswork out of navigating the health-care system,” Elliott said.

Under the plan, each newly formed grouping would receive a single block of funding and work together to deliver a range of health-care services, sources in the health sector told CBC News before the announcement.

The sources said the new Ontario Health super-agency will ask health providers to make proposals for forming the groups, rather than force them together.

On Monday, Elliott spoke to reporters at Queen’s Park in Toronto, and while she acknowledged she would be announcing her health restructuring plans, she did not reveal details.

“It’s going to significantly reduce hallway medicine by making sure that people find the care that they need,” Elliott said.

“This is something that we have thought about long and hard.

“What we really need to do is focus our health-care system on the patient. That’s what the centre of all of this is about, is to make sure that patients’ needs are considered and thought of first and foremost.”

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Monday she is worried that the super-agency model will allow for contracting of health services to the private sector.

The looming changes as well as complaints the previous government failed to tackle the hospital overcrowding problem have the Liberals on the defensive.

“I’m not going to say that we solved everything,” said interim Liberal Leader John Fraser.

“Anyone who tells you that they’ve got the solution to health care, they’re not being truthful with you, because it’s constant work. You’re never done.”

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