As we closed the first weekend of the Citizen’s Reference Panel deliberations (April 29 to May 1), I was left feeling energized and excited about the participation from the 28 citizens throughout the sessions. I was struck by the fact that this group is truly a representation of the diversity of backgrounds, cultures and interests that exist within Ontario. Spanning a range of ages and work experience, from student to CEO, musician to homemaker, and those early in their careers to retirees, they represent a broad range of life experiences with varied exposure to the health care system. Meeting all of them for the first time on Friday night, I was very impressed with their reasons and excitement for participating in this project...
These among many other comments suggested to me that the 28 Ontarians involved in this project truly care enough that they would voluntarily give up three full weekends of their time. Their active participation and challenging questions clearly demonstrated their eagerness to understand and contribute to the health care dialogue and “make a difference.”
The weekend was jam packed with speakers who brought a variety of views on the health care system, beginning with an engaging talk by Steven Lewis, a health policy and research consultant based in Saskatoon. He set the stage for the weekend by taking us on a journey of the history of Medicare in Canada and talking about some of the challenges and implications along the way.
On Saturday and Sunday, we heard from a number of other speakers on issues such as demographic and health trends, the aging population, an overview of the health system structure and workings and how the funding is distributed across this system. Mark Stabile and Michael Rachlis provided us with an animated debate on health system sustainability and potential solutions for both the short and longer term. To help the group better understand the inner workings of the health system, we also heard from a hospital CEO, views about primary care from a family health team physician and about the role of the Community Care Access Centres (CCACs).
The final discussion of the weekend focused on getting the panellists’ views of the nine most valued attributes of a high performing health care system (patient-centred, accessible, safe, equitable, efficient, appropriately resourced, integrated and focused on population health ), as identified by Health Quality Ontario (HQO), an independent agency that reports on Ontario’s health system. The panel also identified a number of improvements and additions to the current system, which will be finalized on the second weekend.
I would like to thank our weekend one presenters:
Throughout the weekend, the 'need for greater communication' was a prevailing theme. The majority of citizens were not aware of the existence and role of organizations like the Local Health Integration Networks (LHINs) or the CCACs. Overall, the group was surprised at the complexity of the health care system, the roles of various players and organizations like the HQO.
The second session (May 13 to 15) will bring additional information to the citizens’ panel from a variety of experts in areas such as health promotion and prevention, children and youth care, mental health, chronic disease management and aging. Others will bring views on some of the essential structural components of the system like e-Health and health administration. Former Assistant Deputy Minister for the Health System Strategy division of the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care, Adalsteinn Brown, will kick off the weekend this Friday night with a discussion about health care reform.
I look forward to keeping you informed about the weekend deliberations and our learning as this important journey continues. In the meantime, we welcome your input on these journal entries, the CRP process and speakers. Thanks for your interest and come back again to read about weekend two!