By Jessica Smith Cross
The Ford government has issued a call to those interested in taking part in its plan to transform Ontario’s health-care system — it’s now accepting applications from groups of health-care providers that want to become Ontario Health Teams.
Health Minister Christine Elliott is leading an overhaul of public health care that is expected to roll out gradually over the coming years, as health-care providers across the province come together in regional groups called Ontario Health Teams.
Those teams will be made up of different kinds of health-care providers — including primary care physicians, hospitals, and providers of home-care, long-term care and community care — that jointly enter into an agreement that will see them held “clinically and fiscally accountable for delivering a full and co-ordinated continuum of care to a defined geographic population,” according to the ministry.
A rough outline of the plans was first leaked by the NDP in January and the government announced the plan in broad strokes in February, tabling legislation at the same time.
The “self-assessment” application, which is an open call, will be the first stage in the four-step application process, with a deadline of May 15.
In the first stage, the groups of providers are asked to identify themselves and rate their readiness to fulfil the ministry’s goals for the Ontario Health Teams, which include the use of digital health information, partnering with their community, providing patients in their region with a continuum of care, as well as being responsible for their own self-governance and for the financial management of health care in their region.
The newly released form sheds additional light on how the government intends to fund health care in the new model, outlining an “incentive structure” in which both the government and the health-care providers benefit from the team’s ability to find health-care savings.
“At maturity, Ontario Health Teams will be prospectively funded through an integrated funding envelope based on the care needs of their attributed patient populations,” the form says. “Teams that exceed performance targets will be able to keep a portion of shared savings. Teams will gain-share among members.”
According to the ministry documents, “shared savings” must be used to improve patient care.
The form also indicates what the government considers signs of poor financial management — hospitals have that run deficits and have a history of making operating pressure and cash advance requests to the ministry and primary care providers that have run afoul of their contracts and accountability agreements.
Following the self-assessment deadline, the ministry will invite certain groups of providers to submit a full application, and may request they add other health-care providers to their team, followed by an in-person visit. The province then plans to announce the first batch of approved Ontario Health Teams in the fall.
“The assessment process will be repeated until full provincial coverage is achieved,” the ministry says. “Providers or groups of providers who are not ready to participate in the first round will have further opportunities to participate, with additional dates to be announced.”
The ministry also says the prospective Ontario Health Teams will receive support in the approval process, which could include input on legislative, regulatory, and policy issues that “prevent Ontario Health Teams from realizing their full potential to deliver innovative, efficient, high quality, and co-ordinated care.”
Meanwhile, the legislation that enables the transformation — Bill 74, The People’s Health Care Act — is working its way through the legislative process, with the Standing Committee on Social Policy hearing two days of testimony on it this week.
The committee was flooded with requests to testify and thousands of written submissions. The left-leaning organization Lead Now co-ordinated a form-letter campaign that led to approximately 20,000 — by QP Briefing’s count — identical written submissions being submitted to the committee for consideration, all with the same message of concern about the legislation leading to “an expansion of private, for-profit care in Ontario.”
Before question period on Wednesday, the NDP asked the government to add more time to the committee schedule in order to give MPPs time to consider all of the written submissions, a request the government refused.
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