Local healthcare providers, social service partners, patients and families gather to discuss the creation of the area’s first Ontario Health Team

Monday, Sept. 30 – GUELPH – Today, health care leaders and their social service partners, patients and families gathered Monday at the Elliott Community to find out more about the development of the area’s first “Ontario Health Team” (OHT). Attendees also had a chance to share their thoughts about the plan and learned how to actively participate as plans move ahead.

In February, a massive overhaul of how healthcare will be delivered in Ontario was announced. Fundamental to the plan is the creation of OHTs. These teams are being introduced to provide a new way of organizing and delivering care that is more connected to patients in their local communities. Locally, a group joined together to plan for the creation of the Guelph and Area Ontario Health Team. After receiving preliminary approval from the Ministry of Health, the group is diligently working on a detailed full application due October 9.

The plan builds on what has proven to be a local strength in health care, says Ross Kirkconnell, Executive Director, Guelph Family Health Team. “We already have great local examples of how by joining together to meet the needs of our patients we’re able to achieve much more than we could separately.”

While the group tasked with developing the submission represents 14 local organizations. Once the application has been completed the plan is to expand membership and include non-traditional healthcare partners to create a coordinated and integrated system across the health system. At Monday’s gathering, many of those organizations were represented. Although not directly involved in crafting the application, many in the audience had already played a role.

“In developing our submission, numerous engagement sessions have been held over the past number of months involving patients, families, persons with lived experience, clinicians and other health care providers,” explains Michelle Karker, CEO, The Elliott Community. From those meetings, the first two local priority populations were identified – palliative care and mental health and addictions.

Pat Stuart, Executive Director Hospice Wellington shared some of what went into deciding local priorities. “The anticipated growth in demand for palliative care services is closely linked with our aging population,” says Stuart. With an anticipated 50% increase in deaths over the next 10 years in our region, the Guelph and Area OHT will require greater capacity to provide community-based, integrated palliative care services in order to meet the needs of these patients, families and their caregivers.

“During our engagement sessions, we heard families and caregivers wanted to be included as partners in the care plan should always know the next step in their treatment and/or care,” Stuart says.

The needs of patients struggling with mental health and/or addiction (MH&A) are often complex and were determined to be a second area of focus. “It is both overwhelming and difficult for these individuals to access appropriate and timely support(s) in our current system,” offered Raechelle Devereaux, Executive Director of the Guelph Community Health Centre. “As a result, many individuals struggling with moderate to complex MH&A fall through the cracks and do not receive the level of care they require and at times, do not receive any care at all.”

The audience heard the Guelph and Area OHT is committed to developing one integrated MH&A service with the capacity to meet the unique needs of individuals with moderate to complex MH&A in a timely and patient-centred manner.

The full application will be reviewed by the Ministry of Health later this year. Although final approval isn’t guaranteed, the group will continue with its efforts to develop a new way of organizing and delivering care that is centred on patients, families and caregivers.

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