News Room


HealthAchieve 2014 Conference


November 5, 2014

(Check Against Delivery)

Thank you Anthony for that very kind introduction and hello everybody. I am very pleased to be here.

Even in such a cavernous room filled with hundreds of people, I feel I’m among friends and colleagues.

I know what it’s like being on the front lines of health care, having worked as a doctor both here and abroad. Like you, I know what it means to be part of a health care team, working hand-in-hand to deliver the best care for our patients and their families. 

And as Ontario’s health minister, I understand the challenges and pressures you face too – whether it’s managing within a tight budget, or working within regulatory constraints and meeting accountability requirements.

I want you to know that I am tremendously proud to be your advocate at the Cabinet table. I respect the work that you do every day and I admire your dedication to improving the lives of Ontarians, caring for families, and making this province a better place to live.

When the Premier asked me to take on the job of health minister, I accepted with excitement – and no small amount of trepidation.

Because I understand intimately the challenges we must face – as well as the opportunities we can harness.

What makes the challenges easier to face is knowing that I have partners like you – the OHA, our terrific hospitals, and the people who power them.

Nowhere was that spirit of collaboration made clearer than when I recently announced enhanced measures to ensure that we’re prepared to treat and contain any case of Ebola Virus Disease that reaches our province.

I’d like to thank all of Ontario’s hospitals for following our guidelines and procedures designed to protect the health of workers and significantly reduce the risk of spreading the disease.

My special thanks go to the 11 hospitals who have agreed to serve as referral centres for the treatment of Ebola cases.

As well, I want to thank the OHA for hosting this conference, one of the most respected and anticipated health care events in North America, year in and year out.

HealthAchieve brings together the best and the brightest… the most influential and committed leaders, thinkers and doers in health care…

… HealthAchieve gets them talking and collaborating…

… and it facilitates the sharing of ideas about how we can continue to innovate to improve the quality of health care we offer to our patients.

This year’s theme – Learn, Share, Evolve – is the perfect summation of what we are all here to do, and in many ways what we want to see everyone achieve, right across the health care system.

It speaks to integration. It speaks to collaboration. It speaks to innovation. And it speaks to transformation.

We have achieved so much together since the launch of the Action Plan for Health Care nearly 3 years ago.

Now our job is to broaden and deepen those achievements, and keep the momentum going…

…to build a health care system that puts people and patients first… a public, universal health care system that is sustainable for generations to come.

The Action Plan for Health Care lays the foundation – and it’s a strong one.

I’m very gratified by how hard the sector has been working at every step along our transformation journey.

And we have some great results to point to in less than 3 short years.

Our 67 Health Links across Ontario provide better coordinated care for high-needs patients. This is the five per cent of patients – often with multiple, complex conditions – that account for two-thirds of all health care costs.

These individuals often have issues that cross ministries and cross sectors – issues like mental health and addiction, poverty, housing, and other social determinants of health.

By developing a more integrated network of providers and care planning, and by delivering services as close to home as possible, we can provide these patients with seamless transitions between other parts of our health care system and improve their overall experience.

The next innovation where together we have had great success is Health System Funding Reform.

But we know this reform has not been easy – and that there is still room for improvement. I look forward to working with you, in partnership as we continue to move toward a fairer, evidence-based funding system that will improve quality. Our hospitals and other health care organizations are at the lead in understanding that every dollar that they spend must be an investment in better patient outcomes. And with the continued support of health system leaders like yourselves, we’ll keep improving quality, ensuring the best value and the best care for our health dollars.

I also want to speak to the commitment we've made to increase funding for small hospitals by 1 percent in 2014/15. This builds on the very positive impact that the $20 million transformation fund has had on the delivery of care in small and rural hospital communities. I know this funding is important to your hospitals - and it's important for us because we want you to have the tools you need to continue to provide the best care for your patients.

Finally, we’ve accomplished so much when it comes to innovations in community health care.

Recently it was my pleasure to be in Thunder Bay to announce the expansion of the community paramedicine initiative.

It uses the training, skills, and availability of paramedics to offer patients, especially seniors, better ways to manage their health issues.

Paramedics link older patients – some of whom they transport over and over again to the hospital ER – to community care and other supports in their home to help enhance their independence and their quality of life.  Community Paramedicine also has the potential to reduce unnecessary 911 calls and emergency room visits, and to make the entire health care system work better.

These are all important steps we’ve taken to improve our health care system.

But I’m really here today to talk about the future, and to ask for your help, and your support, as we put people and patients first.

Today, I want to lay out my four strategic priorities for the next phase of transformation – what we’ve come to call, Action Plan 2.0.

One important focus is a redesign of home and community care.

We all recognize that this increased focus on the home and community care sector is becoming a cornerstone of our health system transformation. If we are going to deliver on our promise of the right care, at the right time, in the right place, we must have a strong home and community sector.

In practice, this means reducing Alternate Level of Care days, strengthening long-term care, better coordinating CCAC services, and helping people find the care they need closer to home.

At the same time, we need to apply many of the lessons we’ve learned together with you – our partners in hospitals – along our transformation journey, and especially as we look to even greater transformation in the home and community care sector. We need to better measure quality, reduce variation in services, and explore more innovative models of care.

That’s why our government asked Gail Donner and a group of experts to provide us with focused recommendations on how we get there in Home and Community Care.  We’re looking forward to those recommendations, and to working in partnership with the home and community care sector to deliver results.

My second priority is integrated, coordinated, patient-centered care.  I got into health care – and I’m sure this is true for every single person at HealthAchieve today – for the simple reason that I wanted to help people, and make a difference in their lives.  In other words, patients were at the centre of that decision, and they’ve got to be at the centre of how we integrate and transform the health care system.

We’ve got to bring together all of the health care partners that are charged with delivering patient care, so that they mesh seamlessly and work in unison.

A system that places the patient at the very centre of everything we do results in a smoother, more efficiently run system, and most importantly, better outcomes for the patients we serve.

Together, we will champion the delivery of quality coordinated care to patients – and we’ll do that by making the best use of the skills and capacity of all our health care providers, hospitals, community organizations, primary care, long-term care homes and others.

We need to improve the capacity of the health care system with thorough community and capacity planning exercises, and continue to ensure that our system has the health human resources it requires to deliver quality and efficient care.

We are also working on improving access to primary care — in the election, we made a primary care guarantee — and we’re working to improve wait times for referrals to specialist care.

Local Health Integration Networks will play a key role in integrating service delivery across the province. LHINs are the experts on what needs to be done at the local level and how to implement the appropriate changes.

LHINs are already providing leadership in their work with community Health Links – as I mentioned earlier – to develop sustainable, integrated local health care models. We are seeing success and innovation.

My third priority is to focus on health promotion and wellness. And I’m pleased to have Associate Minister Damerla’s leadership in helping people stay healthy by encouraging them to take on a more active role in their own health and well-being.

We have so many tools for doing this.

Our province is a leader in cancer screening. We are becoming a leader in diabetes prevention. Smoke-Free Ontario is a successful model that is attracting attention around the world.

Through these initiatives and many others, we are empowering adults to make educated and evidence-informed decisions about their care.

We are helping families put children on the path to lifelong health.

And we’re improving population health by ensuring that Ontarians have access to the programs, services and tools they need, when and where they need them.

My fourth priority is something that underlies all of our work, and that’s a commitment to transparency.

As Health Minister, one of my responsibilities is to ensure that Ontarians have access to information that is relevant, timely, useful and accurate.

It is a responsibility that I take very seriously.

Open data is a priority for our government – and it’s a priority for me. I want our health system to operate so that open data is our default.

In practice, this means that the data we collect is made available – subject to important privacy and confidentiality protections – in a way that is relevant, timely, useful and accurate.

Open data by default will not only help us harness new technology to make our system more efficient and effective, it will drive new innovations, it will help inform evidence-based decision making, and most importantly, it will empower patients.

When we put patients at the centre of everything we do, we need to make sure they have the tools and information to be informed and active participants not only in their care, but in staying healthy.

Under the Excellent Care for All Act, first hospitals and then some primary care organizations have been required to create Quality Improvement Plans.

From now on, those plans are going to include patient engagement.

Evidence shows that when patients are engaged in their care, hospitals stays are shorter and patient outcomes are better.

We are moving away from a time when we used to provide care for patients to a time when we provide care with them.

Transparency and patient engagement are a big part of what will help us achieve our transformation goals. They are major underpinnings of our plan for health care.

Looking around at the people in this room, at the amazing exhibits on display and the speakers we have heard at this conference, reinforces that events like HealthAchieve are a testament to the innovative nature of health care.

Quite simply, health care never stops evolving.

And the health care system in Ontario is changing too. It is innovating and it is transforming itself into something better.

And I’m excited to be a part of that transformation together with you.

We have got momentum. If it wasn’t clear before, certainly HealthAchieve should dispel any doubt.

You are the people who get things done.

You are the people who make change happen.

You are the people for whom health care innovation isn't a challenge; it is an opportunity to build on your past success.

It is only with your support and your commitment that we will deliver on our collective promise – a health care system that puts people and patients at its centre…

…the kind of health care system the people of this province need and deserve.

Thank you.

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