Our health care system continues to undergo significant change here in Ontario. From growing and aging communities, to new technologies and medical advances, to highly informed and engaged consumers, no doubt there are some high expectations and challenges before us.
Health Minister, Dr. Eric Hoskins, recently announced the next phase of Ontario’s Action Plan for Health Care, called Patients First. The document outlines the strategic priorities for the province for improving health care system performance, integration and sustainability. In order to achieve these goals, fundamental shifts are underway in how health care providers are funded.
The province has essentially flatlined hospital funding over the past three years (i.e., no funding increases to cover inflationary costs), and this funding freeze will continue for the foreseeable future. These dollars are being reallocated to enhance community-based services, like home care. Furthermore, a new patient-based funding approach for hospitals elevates our accountability to deliver accessible and quality care.
The Scarborough Hospital (TSH), like all hospitals across Ontario, has felt the effects of this transformation. As we prepare for continued change, the best approach is to define, plan and design our own future. On that note, last summer TSH took a vital step as we began the process to renew our strategic and clinical directions plan, known as Forward Together: Building a Healthier Scarborough.
This planning process has been led by a series of guiding principles:
- Collaborate and Engage: We believe that collaboration and meaningful engagement will lead us to better solutions for our patients.
- Innovate and Learn: We believe we can leverage the collective wisdom and creativity of our team, our community and others to develop innovative solutions that meet or exceed our patients’ expectations.
- Network and Partner: We believe together with our partners and patients we must co-design and provide coordinated care across the whole patient journey.
- Strengthen and Sustain: We believe our primary responsibility is to deliver better value and care outcomes for our patients through sustainable change.
But no matter what the outcome of our planning process, certain things about TSH will not change. We call these our “non-negotiables”.
These commitments include:
- Both hospital sites will continue to have Emergency Departments operating 24/7 year round.
- Both hospital campuses (the General and the Birchmount) will continue to play an essential role in our hospital system and will remain relevant and viable.
- TSH will remain a two-site hospital working as one integrated team.
We must pursue innovative ways to continue to provide accessible and integrated services to our community, while at the same time, ensuring that our hospitals are sustainable for future generations.
There is no doubt that how TSH organizes and delivers its services and programs will change in the future. In doing so, we will continue to leverage our two-site model as a key asset and integrate our programs, services and teams.
We know that this approach is achievable, simply because TSH has a strong track record in this regard. Over the years, programs and services have been consolidated to either hospital site; for example, inpatient and outpatient mental health, palliative care, eye surgery, and renal dialysis, to name a few.
Another good example is our emergency physicians, who have organized themselves as one group that supports both emergency departments.
More recently, last October, TSH and the University of Toronto announced the creation of the new Centre for Integrative Medicine that is sited at the Birchmount campus. And the Maternal Newborn and Child Care team is revitalizing the program through an integrated approach, enhancing services for both hospital sites.
It is clear that both hospital campuses have benefited from this integrated approach – giving each a unique set of programs and role, while maintaining core services for both sites. More
importantly, our community and patients have
gained better access and quality care.