Health

Preparation key to successful Ontario Health Team application

By Tony Poland, AdvocateDaily.com Associate Editor

Organizations hoping to be part of an Ontario Health Team (OHT) should be fine-tuning plans before invitations to submit a full application go out next month, says Toronto health lawyer Michael Gleeson.

Starting June 3, the Ministry of Health will begin distributing the invitations to applicants that fit the criteria to join an OHT, says Gleeson, partner with DDO Health Law. Those applications are due by mid-July.

"If you receive the invitation, you’re not going to have much time to work with other organizations to come up with the application before those six weeks are up. It would be helpful to get your own house in order," he tells AdvocateDaily.com.

OHTs are being developed as part of the Connecting Care Act 2019, Gleeson says.

"It’s kind of transforming our health-care system, and one of the things they established are these integrated care delivery systems," he says. "The government has asked groups of health-care providers or organizations to come together. It makes it easier for patients to get all of their health-care needs from one team.

"The goal, as we understand it, is that the government would eventually like all health-service providers to join one of these teams. There would be teams in each geographic area of Ontario so that eventually everyone is being serviced by these types of arrangements," Gleeson says.

Under the plan, health-care providers, including hospitals, doctors, home and community care providers, will work in a co-ordinated effort. Organizations "that are clinically and fiscally accountable for delivering a full and co-ordinated continuum of care to a defined geographic population" were invited to apply to form a team, according to the ministry.

"Even before this, you saw a lot of initiatives among health-service providers to try to join with others to make things more efficient in terms of back office or governance structure so that you don’t have completely different silos working beside one another," Gleeson says. "I think this is just a more formal approach to that, and the government will have more say in who combines with you, perhaps in an easier fashion than they’ve been able to before."

On May 15 there was a call for self-assessments that saw organizations wanting to participate "describe to the government what they do, who they are affiliated with and the range of the type of work they do."

With government invitations set to go out, Gleeson says it is imperative that prospective OHTs ensure "everything is in place" with their proposal.

"If there are annual meetings that have to be held, if there are any outstanding filings that need to be made, if there are any compliance issues that need to be dealt with, this is a great time to get them done, so that if you do get an invitation, you can hit the ground running," he says.

Gleeson says organizations should also be meeting with potential partners "and start thinking about what their governance structure is going to look like."

"The ministry has been very open-ended about what these teams will look like. You have to have an agreement between participating parties, but everything else is flexible," he says. "How you decide to work together is very wide open. What approach you take may vary depending on the organizations involved."

Those judged to be the most prepared will form the first teams, but "the assessment process will be repeated until full provincial coverage is achieved," according to the ministry.

"Even if you don’t get an invitation this time around, getting things in place now will be useful," Gleeson says. "There will be another call for self-assessments as early as this fall."

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