The Ontario government’s blueprint to transform the health system to be responsive to patients is being welcomed by members of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO).
The changes, announced today by Health Minister Christine Elliott, will create Ontario Health, a central agency that will oversee all aspects of the system. Under its umbrella, local Ontario Health Teams will coordinate and deliver services for patients, including primary care, hospital care, home and community care, long-term care, and mental health and addiction services.
“Nurses have been calling out our system’s failings for years. It needs to be more attentive to people, better connected, easier to navigate, and more cost effective,” says RNAO president Dr. Angela Cooper Brathwaite. “Too many health professionals work in silos with one sector not knowing what’s happening when a patient moves to another sector. Care is fractured, not seamless. Nurses say the health system should wrap all services around the needs of each person, with the first point of contact in primary care.”
“Today’s announcement marks the beginning of important changes that are needed in the health system,” says RNAO’s Chief Executive Officer Dr. Doris Grinspun. To integrate health services, the government must relocate to primary care teams the 4,500 RNs currently working in Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN). This kind of change will usher in a new era as RNs coordinate care for patients in their communities, and help Ontarians navigate the complexities of our system.
Grinspun says she’s heartened that some aspects of the government’s plan are consistent with RNAO’s 2012 landmark report, Enhancing Community Care for Ontarians. “We encourage the government to stay on this path because health systems deliver the best care when they are anchored in primary care. By making primary care a cornerstone, Ontario will build a system that better promotes health, prevents disease, manages chronic illness, and delivers timely mental health services. The result will be healthier Ontarians, which will save money down the road.”
As the ministry of health rolls out its plans, RNAO says the government must remember that hallway health care can be eliminated if steps are taken to improve access to care. This includes adding more nurses in long-term care homes, posting and filling the more than 10,000 RN vacancies in hospitals, and designating NPs as most responsible providers more often. Access to care will also increase by authorizing NPs to perform point-of-care testing, order scans and complete mental health forms. And we will reduce the number of hospital readmissions if the government mandates RNs to conduct all first home care assessments.
The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and nursing students in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has advocated for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve. For more information about RNAO, go to our website at RNAO.ca. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.