Alex Munter, the new chief executive officer of the Champlain Local Health Integration Network, has suggested hospitals in rural communities can become health hubs that bring together services from other providers, thus offering a broad range of health and social services at one convenient location.
Following the announcement by the Eastern Ontario Health Unit that it would move its home to the campus of the rural Winchester District Memorial Hospital, Munter stated:
"In rural communities, hospitals can become health hubs that bring together services from other providers and offer a broad range of health and social services at one convenient location. This is an exciting initiative that further speaks to the Winchester Hospital's innovative leadership in health care."
Coincidentally, OCHU has just submitted its comments on the Rural and Northern Health Care Framework/Plan, Stage 1 Report, and has renewed its call for hospitals to become hubs for health care in rural and northern communities:
"OCHU strongly supports the idea of small local hospitals as hubs for community health care. Small hospitals are constantly threatened by the removal of services to central locations. But they still have a critical health care mass in their local communities. To improve their viability, to support local economies, to attract staff, to foster career development, to achieve economies of scale, and to allow the provision of services in small communities, we strongly support hospitals as a hub for a range of health care services in smaller communities."
In the case of the Eastern Ontario Health Unit, the Winchester Hospital owns the property and will provide management services for the Health Unit, but the Hospital and the Health Unit will remain separate entities.
In some cases, however, it may be appropriate for rural hospitals to directly supply other health care services which have not been traditionally included amongst hospital services.