GREATER SUDBURY, Ont. — Northeastern Ontario will be better connected for accessing health care thanks to the creation of three new Ontario health teams that will serve the districts of Sudbury, Cochrane and Timiskaming.
The new organizational changes were announced by Ontario health minister Sylvia Jones in Sudbury on Wednesday.
“Across the province, Ontario Health Teams (OHTs) are transforming the way people in Ontario access care and play a critical role in building a more convenient and better-connected health care system,” Jones told an audience of medical leaders gathered at the St. Joseph's Continuing Care Centre in Sudbury.
Jones said the teams will make it easier for patients to connect with different health care providers in their local areas
"These new Ontario health teams will help patients experience easier transitions from one provider to another, with one patient record and one care plan being shared between their healthcare providers for a continuous patient story," said Jones. The idea is to allow patients to share their medical history with more than one physician without having to tell and retell their history. Medical records and documents showing treatments and procedures can be shared electronically.
The new health teams will serve major regions in Northeastern Ontario.
This includes the Équipe Santé Ontario Sudbury Espanola Manitoulin Elliot Lake Ontario Health Team, which is to serve Greater Sudbury, Sudbury East, Espanola, Manitoulin Island, Elliot Lake, and surrounding areas.
Équipe Santé Ontario Cochrane District Ontario Health Team, is assigned to serve Chapleau, Cochrane, Matheson, Iroquois Falls, Hearst, Hornepayne, Missinabie, Kapuskasing, Smooth Rock Falls, and Timmins, which is the largest population centre in the Cochrane District.
Équipe Santé Ontario des régions du Timiskaming Area Ontario Health Team, will be assigned to serve the Timiskaming District and surrounding region, including such municipalities as Temiskaming Shores, Haileybury, Cobalt, and Kirkland Lake.
The three new health teams will be added to the existing network of Ontario health teams which already includes North Bay and the Nipissing District, the Algoma Ontario Health Team which includes Sault Ste. Marie, the Nipissing Wellness Ontario Health Team which includes Parry Sound, and the All Nations Health Partners Ontario Health Team which includes Kenora.
"Expanding Ontario health teams is part of our plan to transform the way Ontarians access care, ensuring patients have faster and easier access to the care they need in their community.
Also speaking about the importance of the OHT program was Nicole Everest, a long time advocate for patient care and a member of the Health Sciences North finance committee. Everest said there is room for improvement in the healthcare system, especially when it comes to caring for the elderly.
"Ontario health teams represent a pivotal opportunity for bringing (health) providers together across the continuum and for harnessing the strengths of those providers for collective impact on the health and well being of our communities," said Everest.
Another speaker was Dr. Stephen Cooper, chief of staff at the Manitoulin Health Centre. He said the OHTs will improve health care, especially for Indigenous and Francophone individuals.
"Primary care services are the bedrock of our health care system and anchored in the community. Having spoken to providers across the North, I have heard loud and clear that they're looking for tools to help their patients navigate the healthcare system. The OHT is that tool they're looking for to help reduce the inequity that we all know about," said Cooper.
The government news release said the additional of new health teams increases the provincial goal of providing health team services to every patient in the province.
"With these three new teams, Ontario will have a total of 57 Ontario Health Teams and is one step closer to achieving its goal of full provincial coverage, ensuring that every person in Ontario has the support of an Ontario Health Team," said the release.