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Ontario health care transformation ‘challenging but exciting,’ hospital president says (2 photos)

Hospital still hopes for Level III Withdrawal Management Services facility; brickwork continues on hospital exterior, will continue into 2020

An organizational overhaul of Ontario’s healthcare system will require a lot of work in the Sault and area.

That from Ila Watson, Sault Area Hospital (SAH) interim president and CEO.

Legislation for Ontario Health, known as the People's Health Care Act 2019 and introduced in February, requires health providers such as SAH to make proposals for forming between 30 and 50 Ontario Health teams in the province, each serving approximately 300,000 people (depending on geographic circumstances) in order to streamline the system.

As reported earlier an application to create an Algoma Ontario Health Team (OHT) was submitted to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care by SAH, the Algoma District Medical Group, Algoma Family Services, the Algoma Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic, Algoma Public Health, Algoma Residential Community Hospice (ARCH), Autumnwood Group Inc., Group Health Centre and Northeast LHIN Home and Community Care.

“The whole provincial health system transformation is very exciting, but it’s also going to be very challenging,” said Watson, speaking to SooToday after the open session of Tuesday’s SAH board of directors meeting.

“That is an excellent coming together but it’s also going to be a tremendous amount of work for us as partners to get together and figure out how we’re going to make decisions, how we’re going to make improvements, how we’re going to shift investments. Everyone is so used to operating within their own organizational construct, so this requires us to step out of that and it’s going to be a significant amount of work to make change, but people are very committed to it,” Watson told us.

Approximately 150 self-assessment submissions were sent to the Ontario government by health care organizations as required by the new legislation, Watson told the board.

The province will reply to the submissions June 3, with a quick approval of some submissions anticipated by mid-July, Watson said.

“I’m not sure we’ll be one of those, but we will welcome any feedback we get, and now that we have a forum and a set of players that are more actively at the table with a documented plan, regardless of what the answer is from the Ministry June 3rd, we have an opportunity to really keep going and moving in accelerating this work,” Watson said.             

Meanwhile, SAH is still hopeful of provincial approval for a new, 33-bed Level III Withdrawal Management Services facility for the Sault.

Dealing with patients with mental health and addictions, Level I and II withdrawal management involves a supportive environment such as residential withdrawal, whereas Level III also involves medical withdrawal management.

SAH has requested $11 million for construction of the facility, with an additional, ongoing request for $5.8 million for operational expenses on top of the current $1.1 million it receives for the existing detox centre at 911 Queen St. E.

“We’re continuing to work to reduce that cost and look at alternatives,” Watson said.

“There is also some exploration of some (funding) partnership opportunities that might be emerging but they’re not at a state yet where they can be shared publicly, but we are looking at finding some partners to see if we can make it more appealing to the province to be able to go ahead with it.”

“Ross has been very engaged,” said Watson of Sault MPP Ross Romano in regard to SAH’s Level III plans.

“We’ve met on numerous occasions. He’s been on a facility tour of our current withdrawal management site (but) the feedback has primarily been around the challenge of the new operating dollars that would be required. That is a significant price tag.”

The Northeast LHIN, under the previous Ontario government, approved SAH’s Level III proposal.

On another hospital note, work continues on SAH’s exterior brickwork.

After investigations took place to determine the underlying causes of the efflorescence, or white staining, on the brickwork around SAH in 2016, the brickwork on the west wall of A-wing was removed, the wall reconstructed.

Phase 1 of reconstruction took place throughout the summer of 2018, undertaken by EllisDon, that company agreeing to cover all costs related to the construction defects.

Phase 2 is continuing on the west side of SAH, facing Great Northern Road and south toward the Emergency Department, having begun in April and continuing until November, Phase 3 to be done on SAH’s east side and interior courtyard areas from April 2020 to November 2020.


Darren Taylor

About the Author: Darren Taylor

Darren Taylor is a news reporter and photographer in Sault Ste Marie. He regularly covers community events, political announcements and numerous board meetings. With a background in broadcast journalism, Darren has worked in the media since 1996.
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