| Mar 16, 2006


Feature Article - February 23, 2006

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Feature Article - March 16, 2006

Top LHINexecutives come toNorthbrook

by JeffGreen

A few days after provincial legislation formally established Local Health Integration Networks (LHINS) as managing entities for the delivery of healthcare in Ontario , Georgina Thompson (Board Chair) and Paul Huras (Chief Executive Officer) of the South East LHIN, number 10 of 14 in the system, attended a public meeting at the Northbrook Lions Hall. The meeting was organised by Ernest Lapchinski, the Chair of the Board for the Pine Meadow Nursing Home.

Huras and Thompson gave a 45-minute presentation outlining how LHINS are expected to function.

“You can’t manage a $33 billion healthcare system from Toronto ,” said Georgina Thompson in explaining the government’s thinking in establishing the LHIN system.

Heart_and_soul

The South East LHIN encompasses a broad swath of territory, from Hastings County to Leeds Grenville, and includes the cities, such as Kingston , Belleville , Brockville , Smiths Falls and Perth .

The provincial government has granted the South East LHIN broad powers to plan, integrate and fund health services, including hospitals, Community Care Access Centres, Community Health Centres, as well as home care, long term care, mental health, addiction and community support services throughout this region.

Provincially, LHINs will control $24 billion of the $33 billion annual budget. Family doctors in private practice, as well as ambulance operators, optometrists, labs, public health units and a few other providers will not be subject to the authority of LHINs.

The geographic LHIN boundaries will be seamless, according to Georgina Thompson, patients will be able to access service wherever they want regardless of where they live.

Paul Huras said that the idea behind the LHINs is basic. “We are trying to ensure that all of the agencies delivering healthcare will not only do excellent work in their own area, but that they work together with other agencies so that the entire healthcare system works better. We should really, through integration, make life easier for people.”

Huras said that it will take time for the South East LHIN to get up and running, and it will be business as usual for agencies under its jurisdiction for at least 14 months. Speaking of some of the advantages of the South East LHIN, Huras pointed out that there would be up to 14 Family Health Teams in the network.

Among audience members at the Northbrook meeting were several health care providers, including people from the Northbrook Office of the Frontenac Addington Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) who coordinate homecare in the region. This was the first information session about LHINs that has been available to CCAC staff, and Paul Huras informed them that the three CCAC’s in LHIN 10 would be collapsed into a single agency.

“But,” he said, “this shouldn’t affect how service is delivered. There will still be a Northbrook office, but the paperwork will be streamlined. Your lives should be made easier.”

Huras and Thompson both stressed how important transportation is to the delivery of healthcare in rural areas.

Township Councillors Fred Perry from North Fontenac and Bill Cox from Addington Highlands both expressed the opinion that it would be best for the local area if a Board member of the local LHIN came from the region.

“There is one, said Georgina Thompson, making reference to a LHIN board member form Bancroft.

“By local I meant someone from this region, here,” said Bill Cox.

“In North Frontenac, we have a large percentage of waterfront properties, and baby boomers are moving in and building permanent homes. The number of grey hairs in this room tells you something about the aging population as well. At the same time we have long distances to travel to healthcare services. We could use representation on your board,” said Fred Perry.

The makeup of the LHIN board of Directors has been a bone of contention for critics of the LHIN process.

The Ontario Health Coalition points out that, “LHIN board of Directors are being appointed by the government, not elected by communities. They are entirely accountable to the government as they owe their positions and their remuneration to the government.”

Specific complaints have been levied by the Ontario New Democratic Party against the appointment of Georgina Thompson, as chair of the Southeast LHIN . Last July, Hamilton NDP MPP Andrea Horwath made reference to Georgina Thompson’s activities as owner of the All Care homecare agency and her political campaign for councillor in Belleville in requesting that Premier McGuinty review her appointment as Chair.

At the meeting in Northbrook , however, the audience was generally receptive to the message presented by Paul Huras and Georgina Thompson, even though the presentation stuck to generalities. Only time will tell if LHINs will lead to improvements to rural healthcare delivery.

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