When it comes to health care, local is always best.
A health unit overseen by people who live and work in the area means doctors and medical professionals get to know their clients by name. They can build that feeling of trust that is so important when it comes to healthcare and most importantly, they can keep track of ongoing medical issues that are prevalent in a given geographical area.
A recent proposal by the Ontario government suggested health centres such as Kingston, Frontenac Lennox and Addington get absorbed into the large urban centre of Ottawa and Renfrew. Rather than overseeing 200,000 residents, that new mega health unit would be responsible for 1.7 million people. That suggestion was recently withdrawn from the table for this year, but it remains a very real possibility into next year.
The government had their reasons for their proposal. The reality is the province is facing a major deficit and they were elected partly on the promise of finding efficiencies across the board. One of their ways to do so is to eliminate 25 smaller health units and drop the number of them across the province from 35 down to 10. What that would mean for staff remains to be seen.
At Lennox and Addington County council last week, councillor John Wise made a great point, highlighting the fact health care needs are regional. Lennox and Addington County’s geography means residents within its boundaries would have different concerns than those living in a city.
Already there has been pushback from communities across eastern Ontario who object to the idea of being grouped into Ottawa’s catchment area. Their concerns seem to have caused the Ford government some pause as they put a hold on the idea, at least for the time being. Whether or not they’ll be successful in swaying the ultimate decision remains to be seen, but it’s a start. For better or worse, the current government has shown at times an eagerness to follow through with their proposals with haste despite objections from some of the parties involved.
It’s unrealistic to think major changes to health care aren’t on the horizon. Lennox and Addington has already seen it with Seniors Outreach Services transferring all of its provincially funded programs over to the Victorian Order of Nurses, which is expected to be finalized by Canada Day. During the meeting to announce the transfer, SOS board member and former Lennox and Addington County General Hospital CEO Arthur Ronald warned that more changes were coming to Ontario’s health care.
At best it appears Lennox and Addington’s health unit can hope for is to be merged with a centre that has more in common with its rural roots. Rather than try to resist altogether, L&A County council has made a wise proactive step in discussing the idea of advocating for a merger with a community such as Peterborough. Doing so would not only potentially keep the number of clients served by one centre under one million, but it also makes a lot more sense in terms of the type of care that could be offered. While not exactly identical, a mostly rural area with similar demographics such as Peterborough aligns a lot closer to that of Lennox and Addington.
Whether or not the government will agree remains to be seen. Until then it’s just fingers crossed and hope for the best.