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Anyone for Regional Health Authorities?

The now former head of the Champlain LHIN, Dr. Robert Cushman, continues his outspoken ways, raising the idea of reducing the number of Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and turning them into regional health authorities with the Ottawa Citizen. "Are there too many LHINs? And should the LHINs become regional health authorities? I think they need to go through an iteration," he said. "Let's keep the regionalization, but let's improve the governance. Let's look for less bureaucracy throughout the entire system."

In other provinces, "regional health authorities" go well beyond the funding responsibilities currently held by the LHINs and directly deliver health care services, replacing the existing hospital, nursing home, and home care employers within the region. Obviously, this could have a major impact on employment relationships and bargaining units.  And, consistent with the regionalization approach, Cushman raised concern about too many health care dollars going to hospitals. 

Cushman also dissed Progressive Conservative leader Tim Hudak, who has pledged to scrap the LHINs altogether. "I would argue there are better places to look for savings," Cushman said. He held up, as a cautionary tale, Alberta, where nine health regions were amalgamated into one "superboard". "If someone says they want to get rid of the LHINs, just be careful what you wish for because Alberta is a disaster."

Cushman's earlier suggestion that hospital services could be replaced by 'polyclinics' didn't get strong support from his replacement, Alex Munter. 

Munter told the Cornwall Standard Freeholder that both he and newly-nominated Dr. Wilbert Keon, chair of the LHIN's board of directors, believe small hospitals across eastern Ontario are "incredibly important."

"I'm interested in working with the hospitals to see how we can improve services in our smaller hospitals. We need to make sure we bolster and support small hospitals."

Lisa Little, vice-chair of the Winchester hospital board, said a LHIN presentation called "Rethinking Healthcare" presents a vision where "Winchester hospital could very easily not have an emergency department." "The previous chief executive officer (Robert Cushman) was speaking to this," she said. "That's where the genesis came from."

She suggested the change in leadership, from Cushman to Munter, has prompted a change in perspective.
The slide in question of this presentation is called "A Model for Champlain," and lists a polyclinic or a local hospital as one which could offer urgent care, rather than an emergency room, said Little.

Munter, however, said the document is a Power Point presentation that was made to the board last May.
"It's a discussion paper, not the strategic pan of the LHIN," he said. "It discussed ideas to put out there, and the only actual proposal going forward to have a polyclinic is in Orleans."

That sounds a little better.


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