New local Ontario Health Team approved by Ministry of Health
The Region of Waterloo has a rich history of collaboration on initiatives that have successfully improved the health and wellbeing of the community, including Wellbeing Waterloo Region’s vision of an inclusive and thriving community, addressing homelessness through the work of the Inner City Health Alliance, development of a 10 year Older Adult Strategy, community-wide advocacy for state-of-the-art cardiac and cancer care, and most recently, health, social and community service partners rallying together to mount a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. These and other similar efforts will now serve as the foundation for a major step in local health system transformation.
In April of 2019, dozens of local organizations came together in response to the Ontario Ministry of Health’s call for submissions for the formation of Ontario Health Teams. Following eighteen months of stakeholder engagement which took many forms, the KW4 Ontario Health Team (OHT) received its formal approval from the Ontario Ministry of Health on October 23, 2020.
KW4 represents Kitchener, Waterloo, and the Townships of Wellesley, Wilmot and Woolwich. OHTs are being built across the province to provide seamless, fully coordinated care for people in specific geographic communities. The mission of this collaborative includes better outcomes for individuals, improved population health overall and better value for the province’s health care dollars. Once fully developed, the KW4 OHT will be accountable for the health outcomes and health care costs of approximately 400,000 people that call KW4 home. With this approval, KW4 now joins the nearby and already approved OHTs of Guelph and Area, and Cambridge- North Dumfries.
“This has been a rewarding process to be a part of”, said Mary D’Alton, Executive Director of the Cowan Foundation and a community representative on the KW4 OHT Steering Committee. “I’m honoured to be a part of something that will have meaningful and lasting impact on the wellbeing of our communities.”
The two area hospitals are among the many KW4 partners. “The way these health care organizations, institutions and individuals have come together to form this Ontario health team has been an inspiration for me.”, stated Lee Fairclough (photo), President of St. Mary’s General Hospital in response to news of the KW4 application approval. “The fact that this work occurred while all involved were simultaneously fighting the impacts of COVID-19 further inspires.” Ron Gagnon, President and CEO of Grand River Hospital added, “Lee and I are both relatively new to this region and its reputation for collaboration and innovation is what drew us here. It wasn’t a surprise to us that this group was undaunted by the pandemic and, in fact, seemed even more determined as a result of it. All involved should be very proud.”
The province’s OHTs are asked to choose their area of focus for the first phase of their work. KW4 will be addressing the challenges of accessing health care faced by three priority populations: homeless and precariously housed, frail elderly, and refugees. Year one priorities include increasing the use of virtual care, increasing consistent access to primary health care services, improving connections and communication between primary care and specialists, increasing mental health and addiction services, and making navigating the health system easier for all residents, all appreciating the diversity of approaches based upon the unique rural and urban geography of KW4.
In addition, preparing for the second wave of COVID-19 has been a rallying point for partners across the community, and supporting the COVID-19 response remains an ongoing priority.
Ben Benninger is a member of the KW4 OHT’s Steering Committee, and has been providing the patient’s perspective throughout this process. He sees the creation of the OHT as a great opportunity for the community. “We have to be cognizant of the fact that the patient is the common-denominator in the health system, and the KW4 OHT strongly embraces this aspect”.
KW4 OHT development has been guided by a steering committee, formed with health, community and patient/caregiver representatives. Its signatory organizations include:
AIDS Committee of Cambridge, Kitchener, Waterloo and Area
Alzheimer Society Waterloo Wellington
Bloom Care Solutions
Carizon Family and Community Services
City of Kitchener
City of Waterloo
CMHA Waterloo Wellington
Community Care Concepts
Community Support Connections
Grand River Hospital
Hospice of Waterloo Region
House of Friendship
Independent Living Centre of Waterloo Region
Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre
New Vision Family Health Team
Parkwood Mennonite Home Inc.
Ray of Hope
Reception House Waterloo Region
Region of Waterloo
St. Mary’s General Hospital
Stonehenge Therapeutic Community
The Centre for Family Medicine Family Health Team
The eHealth Centre of Excellence
The Working Centre
Thresholds Home and Support
University of Waterloo
Waterloo Area Consortium of Midwives
Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network
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