The Ontario government is moving forward with health system reform by creating Ontario Health Teams (OHTs), established though new legislation called the Connecting Care Act (2019). The Act provides the framework for communities to establish OHTs locally. For the Oxford County and the surrounding area, this means the places where you receive health care and support services will be working more closely together.
What is an Ontario Health Team?
Imagine local hospitals, long-term care facilities, home-care agencies, a community health clinic or two, and a bunch of family doctors all linked together in one grouping or team. In an Ontario Health Team model, this group of providers would become clinically and fiscally responsible for the population of patients that accesses care from their services.
Currently, each health organization gets its own separate budget from the Ministry of Health and Long-term Care. With the changes, each Ontario Health Team would receive a single pot of funding and a single mandate to provide the full range of health services its population needs. The team would jointly agree on how to divvy up the funding to provide all of those services.
Why the Change?
Right now, one out of every six hospital beds in Ontario is occupied by someone who doesn’t need acute care, which equates to approximately 4,500 patients. When people occupy hospital beds while they are waiting to go elsewhere, other people end up being treated in hallways, hence the term “Hallway Medicine”.
With this new model, each Ontario Health Team would have the ability to redistribute its budget to provide care where it is most appropriate and cost effective. This means patients would transition out of hospital sooner and free up acute-care beds for those who need them.
How will this change patient care?
The goal of an Ontario Health Team is to make a patient’s journey through the health system smoother and more easy to navigate. Although the quality of care provided in Ontario is widely felt to be high quality, different parts often don’t communicate well. Having the hospital, the home-care agency and family doctors working collaboratively would improve that communication. People would still access the health system in the usual ways: with a visit to their family doctor or the emergency room, but the steps onward from there would be more seamless.