The Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care (MOHLTC) has released the Rural and Northern Health Care Framework/Plan: Stage 1 Final Report. The report is the work of a panel created in 2009 to define a vision, guiding principles, strategic directions and guidelines for a framework/plan that the MOHLTC and the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) can use to address access to care in rural, remote and northern communities.
The panel identified 12 recommended strategies and guidelines related to three main themes: governance and accountability, integration, and health human resources. Consideration was given to how provincial, LHIN and local community/provider roles would be taken into account in the implementation of the strategies and guidelines.
Recommendations of the panel include:
- Creating accountability within the MOHLTC leadership focused on rural, remote and northern health, and responsible for creating standards for health care access;
- Establishing a provincial process to improve access to health care services for First Nations and Aboriginal communities, which also considers the needs of remote, isolated and distant communities;
- Continuing to establish innovative health human resource models for rural, remote and northern Ontario, and integrating these into existing provincial health human resource programs;
- Supporting a “local hub” model of health planning, funding and delivery in rural, northern and remote communities at the LHIN-level, which integrates services across health and broader social service sectors at the local or multi-community level; and
- Enhancing provincial information management, clinical and education technology (such as eHealth initiatives, telemedicine, and simulation learning), and related health professional networks and incentives to encourage use.
The second stage of the project is a broad public consultation, including opportunities for providing online input, as well as regional round table events beginning in late January. Stage three will involve the development of the framework/plan itself.
To access the Final Report, and for more information about the ongoing development of the rural and northern health care framework, visit www.health.gov.on.ca. To participate in the public consultations, visit www.health.gov.on.ca.
For more information specific to mental health, see “Rural and Northern Community Issues in Mental Health,” CMHA Ontario, August 2009, available at www.ontario.cmha.ca/backgrounders.