New health teams to fill gaps in care for northeastern Ontario

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Northeastern Ontarians will get quicker, easier access to healthcare following the announcement of three new Ontario health teams, the province’s health minister said during a press conference at St. Joseph’s Continuing Care Center in Sudbury on July 13.

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Northeastern Ontarians will get quicker, easier access to healthcare following the announcement of three new Ontario health teams, the province’s health minister said during a press conference at St. Joseph’s Continuing Care Center in Sudbury on July 13.

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Sylvia Jones announced the approval of three new health teams:

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• The Timiskaming Area Ontario Health Team, serving the Timiskaming District and surrounding region;

• The Cochrane District Ontario Health Team, which is to serve Chapleau, Cochrane, Matheson, Iroquois Falls, Hearst, Hornepayne, Missinabie, Kapuskasing, Smooth Rock Falls and Timmins;

• The Sudbury Espanola Manitoulin Elliot Lake Ontario Health Team, serving Greater Sudbury and Sudbury East, Espanola, Manitoulin, Elliot Lake, and surrounding areas.

Ontario has 57 health teams across the province, including the three announced on Thursday, approved through a standardized intake assessment process. Under Ontario Health Teams, healthcare providers including hospitals, doctors, and home and community care providers work in coordination, with the goal of ensuring better, more integrated care.

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Jones indicated the new teams would “better connect patients in Sudbury and across the region with healthcare organizations and providers closer to home.”

“These new Ontario Health teams will help patients experience easier transitions from one provider to another, with one patient record and one care plan, being shared between healthcare providers for a continuous patient story,” added Jones, who also serves as Ontario’s deputy premier.

“Patients will have convenient access to a connected team of providers who can better meet all of their healthcare needs across their healthcare journey.

“Ontarians can be confident that under an Ontario Health Team, they can continue to contact their healthcare providers, as they always have, to access healthcare.”

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As teams mature, Jones noted they will continue to broaden partnerships to meet the needs of the diverse populations and regions they serve.

“With the approval of these three new teams in the northeast, we are very close to reaching our goal of full provincial coverage of Ontario Health Teams,” she said, adding that the Ministry of Health and Ontario Health will continue to engage with providers in West Parry Sound, so they can also become a health team in the near future.

Nicole Everest has worked with the Sudbury Espanola Manitoulin Elliot Lake Ontario Health Team since 2019, when original applications were being developed across the region and province. She’s also a member of the Patient and Family Advisory Council at the Sudbury and District Nurse Practitioner Clinic.

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“I have been a constant advocate for client, resident, patient and family rights, experiences and outcomes at all levels of this OHT’s journey,” Everest said.

“Persons with lived experience are true experts in the health system, carrying with us insider knowledge of what works and what doesn’t and being witnesses to the system’s gaps and barriers, but we also know what types of improvements will have the biggest impacts on our experiences of accessing and receiving care.

“When I think of my own personal health journey, as well as that of my older parents, the system is fraught with opportunities for improvement and I am grateful that my insights can make a difference in people’s lives, especially for the frail elderly, who often don’t know how to advocate for themselves.”

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Everest believes the health teams represent “a pivotal opportunity for bringing providers together across the continuum and for harnessing the strengths of those providers for collective impact on the health and well-being of our communities.

“I look forward to making an ongoing contribution,” she said.

Stephen Cooper, a physician with the Northeastern Manitoulin Family Health Team and chief of staff for the Manitoulin Health Centre, said he is all too familiar with the cracks in the health system, the inequity of services and the “mind-boggling navigation processes.”

“Ontario Health Teams represent a paradigm shift in the way health and social services are planned and delivered,” Cooper said.

“OHTs, along with persons with lived experience, physicians and clinicians are helping drive that change and innovation.

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“OHTs, in collaboration with First Nations and Indigenous health providers and Francophone partners, will focus on strategies that offer culturally safe care and reduce health inequities that are pervasive across Northern, rural and isolated communities.”

Providers across the North are looking for tools to help their patients navigate the healthcare system, he said, and Ontario Health Teams are that tool.

“By developing and implementing new, integrated care pathways and population health management strategies, and by focusing on care co-ordination and service navigation, OHTs will transform experiences of care and outcomes,” Cooper added. “By focusing on primary care, OHTs will ensure that new service pathways are built on a solid foundation of high-quality care.”

For more information on Ontario Health Teams, visit www.ontario.ca/page/ontario-health-teams.

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