Minister unveils health initiative at WDMH
Health Link will provide personalized care plans

by Matthew Uhrig
Press staff

WINCHESTER – Patients with complex medical needs are expected to benefit from an initiative unveiled at Winchester District Memorial Hospital (WDMH) Mon., April 14.

Deb Matthews, Ontario’s health minister, was at the medical facility to announce the launch of the Upper Canada Health Link, a service that is to offer seniors and high-risk patients better care through personalized aid plans and more support through a team of secondary providers.

“[The program] is all about breaking down barriers for patients with complex conditions, [as well as] making access to health care easier and less complicated,” she said.

WDMH is leading the network planning, which will partner the medical facility with about 16 outside providers, including Dundas Manor, the Township of Osgoode Care Centre, various physician practices, and more.

“The link is very much a monument of a lot of the way we already operate,” CEO Cholly Boland said. “We have a fairly tight knit team, and now have more resources to focus on a system that most reflects patient needs.”

To date, between 100 and 200 patients have benefitted from the collaborative approach.

According to Matthews, the problem with today’s health care system is that one per cent of the provincial population consumes one-third of spending, while five per cent then consumes two-thirds of spending.

“People with complex needs aren’t always getting the care they need. They may be getting lots of care, they may be going to lots of appointments and spend lots of time in hospitals, but they may not be getting the best care for them,” she said.

Dr. Marilyn Crabtree, who has been associated with WDMH for more than 20 years, said the Health Link network is one that will benefit all patients.

“As physicians, we know this is a good concept,” she said. “The system works better with a team with reduced costs. We have an impressive co-ordination of services at work leading to being better able to identify highly vulnerable patients.”

Currently, there are 54 Health Links, with at least one operating in every Local Health Integration Network, covering half the province.

The systems are led by various partners, including a family health team, Community Care Access Centres, and hospitals. Bringing each aspect together is expected to help family doctors connect patients seamlessly with specialists, home care services, and other community supports.

Matthews acknowledged this is the model the provincial government is working toward implementing throughout Ontario. She even touched on the recent bed closures at WDMH, with administrative staff trimming the count by 14.

“[The health ministry] is beefing up community care spending. It will be difficult for hospitals, yes; but we’re working not to impact patient care,” Matthews said. “In the end, the process will be much more streamlined. Right now, it is very much ground up.”

The Ontario government’s initial funding of the Upper Canada Health Link project is $60,000, while funding ultimately tops out at $1 million.

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