Health care advisory council report gives Ford government wide berth to move forward with agenda

A photo of Ontario Premier Doug Ford in Toronto on April 1, 2019.
A photo of Ontario Premier Doug Ford in Toronto on April 1, 2019. Christopher Katsarov / The Canadian Press

An advisory council appointed by Premier Doug Ford’s government has released a report with a number of recommendations to improve the way health care is delivered in the province.

The report is the second to be released by what the government has dubbed The Premier’s Council on Improving Healthcare and Ending Hallway Medicine.

READ MORE: Ford government lays off more than 400 workers at Ontario health agencies Wednesday

The recommendations include better integration of health services, increasing capacity and finding efficiencies.

Chair council and special advisor to the Premier, Dr. Ruben Devlin said Tuesday in a release, “The Council is encouraged by the government’s vision and progress being made to build a connected and sustainable public health care system in Ontario.”

The report comes less than a week after Health Minister Christine Elliott’s ministry was split up.

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WATCH: Ontario government to ‘secure health care and education’ with its 73-member caucus (June 20, 2019)

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Ontario government to ‘secure health care and education’ with its 73-member caucus – Jun 20, 2019

On Thursday, the government announced they would separate the portfolios of health and long-term care. It also comes on the heels of an announcement by Elliott that over 800 administrative health care positions would be eliminated as the province merges multiple agencies into the yet-to-be formed super-agency ‘Ontario Health.’

The council said in researching their report they consulted with over 1,500 patients, caregivers, families, health care professionals and organizations.

“By speaking with Ontarians from across the province, the Council has heard support and enthusiasm for meaningful change in health care,” said Devlin.

On integration, the council recommended the government improve patients’ and providers’ ability to navigate the system by simplifying the process of accessing and providing care.

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Immediately following the release of the report Tuesday morning, Elliott put out a statement applauding it and said the Ford government is on track.

“We are building an integrated health care system that puts patients at the centre of their care, supported by a robust team of providers,” she said.

Digital solutions and access to health information is one way the report said this can be achieved. The council also recommended ensuring primary care is at the centre of an integrated health system.

READ MORE: Hospital union says dealing with hallway medicine, at odds with Ontario government’s fiscal promises

Elliott’s statement echoed this.

“Using digital solutions as a key part of a digital-first health strategy, including developing tools like virtual visits, online access to health records and digital supports for integrated care. We are also developing health system metrics that align with key commitments, such as ending hallway health care, and a robust data and measurement framework for mental health and addictions.”

Innovation is another area the report touched on, noting virtual care options and modernizing the home care sector are two starting points for the government to look at.

Another section of the report recommended better distribution of patient data so that it can be more efficiently used through the system. Stronger partnerships between health and social services was another area where Devlin said improvements can be made.

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Finally the report recommended short- and long-term solutions to deal with capacity issues, including wait times for specialists and community care. The council said new investments should be made to build a system with more capacity.

READ MORE: Ontario government announces $90M to address hospital overcrowding

Overall the report gives the government a wide berth to move forward with their agenda.

After the release of the first report by the council in January, Devlin was criticized for being too cozy with the PCs and Ford.

Devlin was the former president of the PC Party under Mike Harris. He was also a senior advisor on Ford’s election campaign. He appeared by the premier’s side in 2014 when he announced his brother, former Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, was undergoing cancer treatment for an abdominal tumor.

Devlin’s current position comes with a $348,000 per year salary plus expenses.