The Ontario government will announce its long-rumoured overhaul of the province’s health-care system on Tuesday, unveiling a plan that could see nearly 20 agencies gradually collapsed into a single organization that would oversee everything from cancer services to organ transplants to home care.
Health Minister Christine Elliott told reporters on Monday said that her Progressive Conservative government is “finalizing” appointments for a new super agency, including possibly for a chief executive officer, as it prepares to table sweeping health-care reform legislation on Tuesday.
“We do have a big announcement that we are making [Tuesday] and there’s no real surprise in the sense that I’ve said from the beginning we need transformational change in health care in Ontario,” Ms. Elliott said.
Asked if the CEO of the new health-care agency would be a patronage appointment or a professional one, Ms. Elliott replied: “It is going to be [a] professional person.” Third-party experts are helping the government find the best candidates, she added.
The involvement of an outside vendor in the hunt for the super-agency’s board and CEO was one of the details included in confidential ministry documents leaked to Ontario New Democrats earlier this month.
Those documents, coupled with an early draft of a Health System Efficiency Act, also leaked to the NDP, revealed the broad strokes of the Ford government’s plans to improve patient care while saving money.
An unnamed bureaucrat was later fired over the breach and an OPP spokeswoman said the force’s anti-rackets branch is now reviewing the matter.
The draft legislation showed that the Ford government intended to create a super agency with a board of up to 15 members that would replace 19 other agencies, including 14 Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) that spearhead regional health-care planning and co-ordinate home care.
The other agencies on the list were: Cancer Care Ontario; eHealth Ontario; Health Quality Ontario; HealthForce Ontario, which recruits doctors and other health professionals; and the Trillium Gift of Life Network, which co-ordinates organ transplants.
Trillium president and chief executive officer Ronnie Gavsie spoke to the province’s deputy health minister about the pending changes Monday afternoon, a spokeswoman for the agency confirmed.
“As we navigate the changes to the health-care system, it’s important that we sustain the momentum of our progress to date, and can move quickly to adopt and implement emerging initiatives that will ultimately lead to more lives saved,” Ms. Gavsie said by e-mail.
The loss of independence for Ontario’s transplant program is just one of the reasons that Bob Bell, Ontario’s former deputy health minister, has been speaking out against the Progressive Conservative government’s super-agency plan. He is also worried the changes could undermine Ontario’s cancer-care system and leave patients to fall through the cracks during the transition period.
“My worry is what happens in between,” said Dr. Bell, who is also a former president of the University Health Network in downtown Toronto. “What happens to the functions of the LHINs, especially home care?”
The leaked documents outlined plans to create between 30 and 50 “MyCare Groups” that are supposed to integrate care among hospitals, family doctors, home-care providers and others, with 10 early-adopter groups up and running by this spring.
On Monday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath reiterated her concerns that the “MyCare Groups” could put more of Ontario’s health-care dollars into the bank accounts of for-profit entities.
“We’re waiting to see the legislation, but I can tell you this: It better have closed the loopholes that would let the private sector belly up to our health-care dollars, and it better close this idea of a super agency that’s going to take away the local specifics around what people will need in their communities,” she said.
Ms. Elliott said the final plan will be different from the leaked one, but she did not say how.
“We’ve heard from patients across this province that their needs are not being met,” Ms. Elliott said. “We have to do better and we will do better.”