Ontario's Action Plan for Health Care was introduced in January 2012 as the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care’s (“MOHLTC”) plan to transform Ontario’s health care system.
In a speech given to the Empire Club of Canada on January 27, 2014, Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care (“Minister”), provided a progress update on a number of Action Plan initiatives since the plan’s inception two years ago. The Minister’s speech was followed by the release of Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care – Year Two Progress Report (“Progress Report”).
The Minister affirmed in her speech that the Action Plan is the right plan to transform health care in the province. A number of health care system reforms were presented as examples of Action Plan initiatives that provide Ontarian’s with better access to health care and made a “signficant” bend in the province’s health care cost curve.
The examples included:
- Prescription Drug System Reforms and expanded services offered by pharmacists which have enabled $500 million per year to be reinvested to provide more drugs to more people and better access to pharmacy services;
- Health System Funding Reform creates a sustainable provincial funding model for hospitals by moving away from a global funding system to a funding model tied more directly to the care needs of the patient. Compensation under the new model is based on a number of factors including the number of patients that receive care and the evidence-based quality of services provided; and
- Physiotherapy Services Reforms increase the availability of publicly funded physiotherapy, exercise and fall prevention services and make them more accessible to those who need them the most.
The Minister’s speech and Progress Report provide a high level overview of the Action Plan’s progress over the past two years including:
- The Smoke Free Ontario Strategy which has reduced the smoking rate from 24.5% in 2000 to 19% in 2012. Proposed amendments to the Smoke-Free Ontario Act include steeper penalties for selling cigarettes to children, bans on the sale of flavoured tobacco, and broader restrictions on smoking in public areas including playgrounds, bar and restaurant patios and outdoor grounds of hospitals and specific government properties (except in outdoor areas designated by the hospital board and government, respectively);
- The Childhood Obesity Strategy has given rise to a number of initiatives including the Healthy Kids Panel and the Healthy Kids Community Challenge. In an effort to support Ontarians in making healthier food choices, the MOHLTC plans to introduce menu labelling legislation that requires large chain restaurants to post calorie counts and other nutritional information on menus;
- The Health Links program co-ordinates care for patients with complex chronic conditions. In just over one year, 47 community Health Links programs have been developed. There are plans to launch additional programs across the province;
- Community Paramedicine Programs have reduced the number of calls to 911 and transportation by EMS to the emergency department related to unnecessary emergency room visits. The MOHLTC is committed to investing $6 million to support the expansion of these programs across the province;
- The MOHLTC plans to implement two-thirds of the recommendations made by Dr. Samir Sinha, expert lead for Ontario’s Senior Care Strategy, in his report to the Minister of Health and Long-Term Care and the Minister Responsible for Seniors, Living Longer, Living Well. Dr. Sinha recommends a shift from provding care in institutions to providing care at home. In support of this recommendation, the government is committed to expanding access to home care and community support services; and
- The creation of the Ontario Health Innovation Council is expected to reduce the barriers to bringing new health care products and technology to the market.
Future Commitments to Health System Transformation
The Minister in her speech stressed the importance of “meaningful patient engagement” and future plans to embed meaningful patient engagement in the health care system through additions to the Excellent Care For All Act. The government will set standards for responding to patient complaints and develop a new patient advocate program.
The Minister also acknowledged the importance of personal support workers (PSWs) in the provision of home care. Plans are underway to strengthen the recruitment and retention of PSWs in the home care sector. The Minister also acknowledged that developing strategies to better support PSWs will take time, but it will be addressed on an urgent priority.