On April 10, Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long-Term Care, Dr. Eric Hoskins, announced the creation of an Expert Panel to develop a health care plan for Scarborough and West Durham Region. The Expert Panel reflects the Minister’s high priority to create a ‘road map’ to improve hospital services for our community. I realize this announcement may pose a number of questions for many people. I will provide a brief overview of the Panel’s mandate, highlight the importance of this work and some key strengths that The Scarborough Hospital (TSH) brings to the table.
Mandate of the Expert Panel
The Panel has two broad objectives:
- To develop a plan to address how hospitals in the region can work together to deliver acute health care programs and services in a way that meets the needs of local residents; and,
- To provide recommendations on program and service integration, as well as infrastructure needs.
The Expert Panel will work in collaboration with the Central East Local Health Integration Network (Central East LHIN), the neighbouring Toronto Central and Central LHINs, as well as the local community hospitals, particularly TSH, Rouge Valley Health System (RVHS), and Lakeridge Health (whose main hospital site is located in Oshawa).
It will be chaired by Dr. Barry McLellan, the President and CEO of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, and its members have expertise in governance, health system transformation, capacity planning and program integration. The Expert Panel is expected to start their work in the near future and deliver their recommendations to the Minister of Health within six months.
The Expert Panel will build on previous work, including the Preferred Integration Plan developed by TSH and RVHS in 2013, which recommended a merger of the hospitals but conditional, among other things, on receiving capital planning grants from the province to create a long-term plan to modernize the three hospital sites in Scarborough.
We Listened, We Heard
During the development of the Preferred Integration Plan and, more recently, TSH’s new Strategic Plan to be released in June, we completed extensive stakeholder engagement activities to obtain valued insight and input. TSH listened, and we heard two prominent themes from our stakeholders (staff, physicians, and community):
- Solutions to re-organize or integrate patient services among the hospital sites must take into account the community’s unique needs and challenges, particularly enhancing access for our diverse and disadvantaged populations.
- Modernizing Scarborough’s hospital facilities – in a similar fashion as other Ontario communities – is essential if our health care teams are to provide the best possible care that today’s medicine has to offer.
At TSH, it has been a long-standing priority to provide accessible care that meets the unique needs of our community and patients. We have responded to the diversity of our global community by providing culturally sensitive care. We also understand the importance of health equity and we will remain strong advocates in this regard for the Scarborough community.
In regards to infrastructure, there is no doubt that a long-term plan for facility renewal in Scarborough is essential. In the meantime, targeted investments to address immediate deficiencies are equally important, whether it’s to address dated operating rooms or undersized emergency departments. These infrastructure investments must be aligned to any service integrations that may arise from the Expert Panel recommendations.
Our Collaborative Spirit
At TSH, one of our greatest strengths is our collaborative spirit, which has allowed us to develop innovative solutions and partnerships with other health care providers to create accessible and connected care for patients and their families. Over the past year, TSH and RVHS have continued to plan and implement service integrations to better coordinate care for our patients.
However, a broader system-wide view and health plan will be essential for Scarborough’s future, and I am confident that the Expert Panel will leverage the strengths of both hospitals in their deliberations and recommendations. We look forward to working with the Panel as they embark on this important planning exercise.
Quality Care Remains Our Top Priority
Until the Panel has completed their work and the Ministry of Health provides further direction, it will be “business as usual” at TSH. We are moving ahead with the implementation of our 2015-2016 Operating Plan announced in March. As well, we will be releasing our new Strategic Plan at our Annual General Meeting on June 23.
But most importantly, our patients will remain our top priority. We will remain focused on serving our global community with the expertise and compassion that everyone has come to expect from The Scarborough Hospital.