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LHIN job cuts can have positive outcome, care expert says

Posted: July 25, 2019

(July 7, 2019)

By: Catherine Whitnall, Kawartha Lakes This Week

Agency’s role was strategic and advisory, not service delivery

The recent elimination of more than 800 jobs at Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) and six other health-care agencies will not have a direct impact on the City of Kawartha Lakes.But that doesn’t mean changes are not coming as the province moves to merge 20 agencies — including Cancer Care Ontario, Health Quality Ontario, Trillium Gift of Life and HealthForceOntario — into the new Ontario Health super agency.

In June, 416 people in “back-office positions” such as communications, planning, data analytics and financial services were given layoff notices and an additional 409 vacant positions were eliminated.

“We can all agree that funding front-line health services, instead of duplicated administration, is a far better use of health-care dollars. None of the impacted positions provide direct patient care,” said Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock MPP Laurie Scott.

The government projects the overall system changes will save $350 million annually by 2022, with a potential $250 million saved this year alone.

Dr. Sheila-Mae Young has been involved with the Central East LHIN, at various stages, for about 12 years, initially as the primary care lead for Cancer Care Ontario’s Central East Regional Cancer Program.

She is also a member of the LHIN’s Primary Health Care Advisory Group, health professional advisory committee and became the primary care lead for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes when the LHIN was subdivided into regions in 2016.

“The LHIN has changed and grown and evolved since it started and it will continue to evolve,” said Young, noting incorporating the 14 agencies into the government’s proposed super health agency can have a positive outcome.

“It’s (the LHIN) not going to be there in the future, but the extremely important data will be there as a valuable resource for planning.”

Young explained the LHIN’s role was never about delivering services, but rather as a strategic planning and advisory body to support the needs of communities.

“The Ministry of Health doesn’t want to lose the ‘on the ground’ perspective that the LHINs have,” said Young.

“The LHINs have been very involved with local stakeholders … giving patients and caregivers a greater voice at the table. And the government should be listening to that. The LHIN has done a very good job at bringing that voice forward.”

While Young admits the province’s time frame for amalgamating health services is “very aggressive,” she believes it will ultimately have a positive impact on health-care planning.

The Ontario Health Coalition disagrees and takes issue with the claim that the cuts only involve the “back-office.”

“We are hearing from health professionals, nurses and unions representing care staff that a number of the LHIN and health agency cuts do directly impact care,” said coalition executive director Natalie Mehra, pointing out the Conservatives promised to end hallway medicine and have since delivered massive cuts to health-care services.

“In fact, the health agencies being cut directly impact patient care and could have a huge impact on wait times and access to services. In addition, the cuts at the LHIN include cuts to care staff that impact patient care directly. ”

The coalition is demanding the Ford government stop the cuts.

If they fail to do so, they are demanding the government release a full list of all positions they are cutting in every health service, in order to make these cuts transparent and publicly accountable.

“These are services that are funding by the public with our money and changes in health-care policy should not be subject to a disingenuous publicity campaign,” said Mehra.

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