Minister Christine Elliott's remarks for the announcement of The People's Health Care Act, 2019
CHECK AGAINST DELIVERY
Good morning everyone.
Thank you for joining us. I would like to thank Dr. Newton and the team at Bridgepoint for hosting us here today.
I would especially like to thank all of the staff for your dedication to the thousands of patients you care for day in and day out.
I would also like to thank everyone who has joined us this morning, including Minister Cho, and my Parliamentary Assistants, Robin Martin and Effie Triantafilopoulos.
I would like to start by telling you a story about a gentleman whose family I met to discuss his health concerns.
This gentleman was in good health when he suffered a catastrophic accident that left him in a quadriplegic condition.
His family worked incredibly hard with his community hospital to find him a transfer to a place that could provide him with rehabilitation services. While he was otherwise stable, he still needed a ventilator to breathe.
So, despite this progress, the only option he had to access the life-sustaining ventilator was to stay in intensive care.
He was there for thirteen months. Can you imagine? 13 months. Day in and day out, in intensive care.
Because there was no other place available to care for him.
There was no other place in Ontario that offers rehabilitation services to people with spinal cord injuries who require mechanical ventilation.
It got to the point where this gentleman no longer wished to live and, but for his family's intervention, he would have been taken off life support.
That care was not patient centered - that care was system driven.
And that's the problem.
It's because of stories like this that we are ready to challenge the status quo and years of health care inefficiency in this province.
I, along with Premier Ford and our entire government ran on a commitment to end hallway health care.
It is a commitment we take very seriously.
This has been a defining priority of our government since day one.
We have to do more to ensure the health care system is sustainable.
And that high-quality care is there for us when we or our loved ones need it most.
Too much time and attention is spent on maintaining a siloed and fragmented system. And far too many people believe it is the patient's - or the family's job - to navigate this complicated system during what is already one of the most traumatic and stress-filled periods in their lives.
That is just wrong.
Through my time working as an MPP, six years as Health critic, as Ontario's first Patient Ombudsman, and now in my capacity as Minister of Health and Long-Term Care...
...I have heard from literally thousands of you.
...Patients, families, and caregivers.
...Doctors, nurses, and hospital administrators.
...PSWs, harm reduction workers and pharmacists.
...Paramedics, mental health workers, and advocates for vulnerable people.
As an MPP, I co-chaired an all-party Select Committee on Mental Health & Addictions whose report received unanimous support from all members of Legislature, as well as another unanimously-supported all-party Select Committee on Developmental Services, which recognized a range of interconnecting issues such as housing, employment and social supports. And, of course, health care.
From these thousands of hours of conversations, I have heard your collective refrain: our system is in need of transformational change.
Ontarians want their elected officials to put down the polling and finally pick up the mantle of health care leadership in Ontario.
We are past the point of policy tinkering around the edges that simply shifts capacity problems from one end of the system to the other.
More than ever I've come to deeply understand that the people of Ontario need to know that the government and their health care system are working together.
Over the last five years, Ontario has spent 30% more than the Canadian average in administrative expenses on its health care system.
I don't know about you, but I certainly have not seen a 30% improvement in care. Nor would the over 1,000 patients receiving care in hallways across Ontario every day.
In addition, after increasing across-the-board spending year after year after year, average wait times to get into a long-term care home have ballooned by over 300% since 2003...
...from 36 days to 146 days.
We know that in Ontario health care represents 42 cents of every dollar government spends.
Yet we rank poorly - on critical factors such as wait times, quality of care, and system integration - compared to our provincial counterparts.
Right now care is fragmented, particularly at transition points, for example, from hospital to home care.
Patients, families and caregivers experience frequent gaps in care, and have to reiterate their health concerns over and over again, because of a lack of digital tools and care continuity.
And for health care providers, they are each paid out of different funding envelopes and are discouraged from working together in teams.
The fact is that the value of our health care system is locked in siloes.
This is no way to deliver health care in our province.
And one of the most frustrating aspects of all, is the fact that Ontario is home to some of the world's best doctors, nurses, and health care teams. But we have left them to do their best with a patchwork system simply not built to help them do their jobs.
We hear from health care providers day in and day out, that they are ready for a system that encourages collaboration, partnership, and finally frees them from the system slowed by the bureaucracy constructed within it.
Our health care providers work very hard to provide the best possible care.
They work hard to connect us to the services we need ... and they do it in spite of the fact they have few tools to make those connections.
Our providers should be able to easily link us to that care. And once they make that connection, they should already have your health care history so you don't have to repeat it.
Imagine, we can book appointments online. We have access to our own health care record.
And what we could do if we connected the best of what's happening across the system, and leveraged those successes for everyone's benefit.
Take Cancer Care Ontario, for example.
Cancer Care Ontario has built some of best disease management programs for cancer and renal indications in the world.
Imagine if we could amplify that success and take the best practices we have learned from developing these programs to build a larger, more comprehensive chronic disease management strategy.
Imagine if we could replicate those achievements to correct the inequities that have led to the development of such a world-class cancer system while leaving our mental health and addictions sector with little to no infrastructure at all.
Right now, we are leaving Ontarians behind because we have a system that is disconnected.
Efforts are not coordinated toward a common goal, but are dispersed and diluted across a system that competes for, rather than realizes the value of, every health care dollar.
So today is an exciting day.
I have been waiting almost 13 years to say directly to Ontarians ... we see you, we hear you, and you finally have a government that isn't afraid to build a health care system for YOU.
Because the truth is, we have thousands of dedicated Ontarians working to deliver better health care in Ontario. But the structure of our system is flawed.
And that ends now.
But one thing I want to make clear, is our government's commitment to the fundamental right of Ontarians of universal access to a publicly funded health care system.
To me, it's part of what it is to be a Canadian ... to be a proud Ontarian.
That's why throughout our government's process of developing a vision for our health care system, I want to say directly and very clearly to the people of Ontario that our primary objective is and always has been to strengthen our publicly funded health care system.
...and that means paying for services with your OHIP card.
But while universal access to publicly funded health care is not up for debate, the structure and effectiveness of our system is.
Ladies and gentlemen, today is a new day for health care in Ontario...
...and I'm proud to announce that our plan starts right at home, in our communities.
One of our key priorities as a government is to deliver local, community-based care, unencumbered by bureaucracy.
So I'm here now to lay out our vision for patient-centred, community care, through the creation of local Ontario Health Teams.
Ontario Health Teams would be made up of your local health care providers, and will be organized in a way that will enable them to work as a coordinated group. These teams will be built to guide patients between providers and shepherd you and your families through transitions.
They would share responsibility for care plans, service provision, and outcomes. And most importantly, would take the guesswork out of navigating the health care system.
Through Ontario Health Teams, patients would finally have a say in their health care journey. With safeguards in place, of course, to protect information, patients would have an option to securely access digital health services, such as making online appointments, talking to a specialist virtually, or having access to your own electronic health records.
And a great part about Ontario Health Teams is that they will rely on leadership that already exists in the community, rather than create another level of bureaucracy and management.
I'd like to share an example of this model already at work in my riding of Newmarket-Aurora, at Southlake Hospital through their Southlake@Home program.
Southlake Hospital approached me late last year with a proactive proposal for integrated community care, specifically around the hospital - home care relationship.
Through collaboration, we enabled the hospital to partner directly with home care providers in an effort to transition patients more effectively from hospital, and tackle Southlake's escalating Alternate Level of Care rate - one of the key drivers of hallway health care.
This is just one example of how community providers are already seeking out opportunities to join forces without interference by a heavy-handed government that thinks they know better than the front line.
And it's these opportunities and relationships we are seeking to empower through the creation of Ontario Health Teams, which will finally put the patient at the centre of the provider network.
We envision a community-based health care delivery model that connects care - and includes primary care and hospitals, home care and long-term care, mental health and addictions supports, just to name a few.
In fact, it would be great if we connected our entire health care system, to work as one.
The reality is, to build a patient-centred system of care we so fiercely believe is necessary, we must enable collaboration and coordination from top to bottom.
And that includes looking at how best to structure our agencies.
Over time we have continued to add, but not integrate nor coordinate, new agencies and health care programs.
This approach to system planning has led to the development of many discrete agencies, each working toward a separate vision, following a distinct workplan and embracing at times divergent views on how to deliver the best possible care to patients.
These agencies also often focus on specific patient populations or disease states, while the reality is that people are whole individuals, who span multiple groups or areas of focus.
This is not the fault of any one group. But our collective failure to demonstrate the courage to take the best of what's working and make it better.
The fact is that world-class programs are being developed and delivered through our various agencies.
But once again, we have locked away the value of our system in siloes.
We have a genuine opportunity - and I would argue responsibility - to amplify the strength of what's working by bringing our resources together and comparing what ideas and successes can be translated to improve other programs.
To bring a consistency of approach to our health care system.
A common vision. A single point of oversight. A united effort to get from where we are, to where we need to be.
That is why I am also announcing that our government has established a new agency, Ontario Health, to do this important work.
To bring the best of our system together, and form deep roots that will put health care in our province on a solid foundation for the future.
It will be a single and harmonized home for programs and operations of existing provincial agencies.
Ontario Health will begin to take shape this spring. But I want to stress that this is a long-term process.
It's going to take time to bring these agencies together to form a new and more effective organization.
But it's the right thing to do.
If we are truly serious about finally building a health care system centred around you and your families - we need to roll up our sleeves and put in the hard work to get there.
We need to be bold.
We need to be creative.
And we need to work together.
I know what we are announcing today is significant.
And that real, meaningful change is never easy.
But I also know what's at stake.
Which is no less than the future of the health care system we rely on and the system that we have an obligation to enhance and protect.
The time is now and I am confident that we have the plan and the team to get this done right.
I know that together, we will finally build a coordinated health care system here in Ontario, centred around patients.