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Barrie one of 19 communities in line for funding 0

Roberta Bell, QMI Agency

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews. (QMI Agency file photos)

Ontario Health Minister Deb Matthews. (QMI Agency file photos)

Health Minister Deb Matthews doesn't think it will be long before health-care providers come together to formally co-ordinate patient care.

"The first thing we need to do is get all the players around the table … and start that conversation going about how they can work better together," Matthews told QMI Agency.

The province has announced 19 communities — including Barrie and the southern Georgian Bay region — that will be receiving up to $75,000 in funding to create business plans for Health Links, a new initiative aimed to improve patient transitions between local health-care providers.

"Their job is to identify those individuals who are high users of the system who are not receiving co-ordinated care and develop an individualized, personalized plan of care ... including family support and community support," Matthews said.

Seniors and other patients with complex conditions such as chronic disease, mental illness and addiction, make up 5% of the population, but use two-thirds of the health-care budget, the ministry stated in a news release last week.

Too often, patients are discharged from the hospital without a care plan and they end up back in the emergency room, said Matthews, adding if they had the "right care" set up before they left, they likely could have stayed at home and continued to recover.

"We know that too many patients aren't getting co-ordinated care," she said. "They have to bounce around from one doctor to another, from one service to another."

While each individual Health Link will have its own protocol, Matthews foresees members having face-to-face meetings to talk about specific cases and how best they can contribute.

"There's a circle of care, and people who are within that circle of care would have access to records," she said, noting patients who don't want their records shared can tell their providers they want to opt out.

The Barrie and Community Family Health Team has taken the lead in co-ordinating a Health Link in Barrie and will be working with the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre and agencies such as the North Simcoe Muskoka Community Care Access Centre. The South Georgian Bay Community Health Centre in Wasaga Beach will be partnering with the Georgian Bay Family Health Team, Collingwood General and Marine Hospital and Community Connection/211, among other organizations.

"We know that there are many other communities that are working on developing plans for health links right now," said Matthews, noting there are a number of health-care providers in discussions with their Local Health Integration Networks — or LHINs — across the Ontario. "We look forward to the day when we've got health links throughout the province."

barrie.news@sunmedia.ca

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