In February, Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott announced expansive changes to the province’s health care system designed to address overcrowding, reduce wait times, and ensure patients receive streamlined, high-quality care. Central to the overhaul will be the creation of “Ontario Health Teams” and the unification of 20 existing health agencies into a single ‘super agency.’ Medical professionals, patient advocates, and medical malpractice lawyers have received the plan with cautious optimism.

How will the new healthcare strategy address hospital overcrowding?

 Hospital overcrowding and hallway medicine have been sources of concern for Ontario medical malpractice lawyers for years. They were also key issues during the 2018 provincial election. The Progressive Conservative government’s “People’s Health Care Act” aims to address these issues by making it easier for patients to navigate the system and simplifying communication between care providers.

Central to this aim will be the creation of between 30 and 50 Ontario Health Teams. These will be formed across the province to serve geographic regions of roughly 300,000 people or specific groups of patients with special medical needs.

“It will be up to the local health-care providers in each community to come together to form a plan about how they can connect care for patients in their community,” Elliott said in her announcement.

In theory, these specialized teams will enable communication between care providers and improve access to different forms of treatment for at-risk Ontarians. For example, if an elderly patient is discharged from the emergency department at a hospital, he or she will receive home care right away, which will reduce the risk of returning to the ER.

Similarly, the creation of a super health agency including groups like Cancer Care Ontario, Health Quality Ontario, eHealth Ontario, and various regional health networks is intended to streamline communication and ensure patients do not fall into treatment gaps.

Will the new system work?

 According to interviews conducted by the Toronto Star, the system has both fans and detractors. Ontario Hospital Association president Anthony Dale praised the new direction, saying it will remove “some of that inappropriate oversight and red tape and third-party intermediaries that get in the way of care providers actually working together.”

“The health provider community knows what has to be done at the local level, especially,” he added. “It’s just that, right now, they are in many instances actually prohibited from working together to deal with them.”

North York General Hospital chief executive Dr. Joshua Tepper seemed to agree. He said he already holds regular meetings with area care providers and believes the Ontario Health Teams will serve a similar purpose.

“It’s about getting together and looking at our community and saying ‘what can we collectively do for our patients’ and being given the freedom and the opportunity to do that, removing those gaps that patients experience,” he told the Star.

The provincial NDP and Liberal Party have voiced concerns about the proposed strategy, while the Ontario Medical Association (OMA), which represents the province’s doctors, is reserving judgement.

“The details matter,” said OMA President Dr. Nadia Alam. “The biggest question the OMA has is the ‘how’ of it.”

This is largely the position that will be staked by the province’s medical malpractice lawyers; streamlining service and enabling communication between care providers are worthy aims, but until tangible results are delivered, skepticism will endure.

Or, as Star columnist Martin Regg Cohn put it: “Connectivity can be a good thing but it is not a sure thing – it can’t conjure up co-ordination, efficiencies and extra beds on demand. Buzzwords are not benchmarks.”

Contact Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers if you’ve been hurt in a medical accident

While the provincial government works to enact its new healthcare strategy, doctors and patients remain on the front lines of an overcrowded medical system in which errors, oversights, and injuries are a daily risk. If you’ve been hurt in a medical setting, contact the medical malpractice lawyers at Neinstein Personal Injury Lawyers today to learn how our experienced team can help.


Image credit: David Whelan/Wikimedia Commons

Greg Neinstein