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Health-care coalition aims to prepare for aging boomers

By Shawn Jeffords, Toronto Sun

Rob Oliphant. (Sun files)

Rob Oliphant. (Sun files)

TORONTO - 

A coalition of 17 health-care providers, professional associations and charities vow to work together to provide better health care in Ontario — instead of waiting until it’s too late.

The Better Care Faster Coalition, which includes organizations like the Ontario Hospital Association, Ontario Medical Association and Ontario Gerontology Association, will release a report Wednesday outlining how new technology and better planning can help prepare for the aging baby boomer demographic.

The report, called Putting Innovation to Work, outlines seven recommendations for health providers and government.

“We are tired of the moaning and wringing of hands, saying, ‘We don’t know what to do,’” coalition steering committee member Rob Oliphant said Tuesday. “(People) blame the government for this or that. We need to focus on ‘How do we move on and get over some of these hurdles?’”

The paper echoes many of the findings of the Toronto Sun’s four-part aging boomer series, noting the health-care system is reliant on acute care, has fragmented service delivery, and that little action has been taken to correct its shortcomings.

Oliphant, a former Liberal MP who now serves as president of the Asthma Society of Canada, said the report focuses on how we can address chronic disease. The country’s health-care system is set up to handle acute care, like a broken limb or appendicitis.

But chronic diseases like cancer, heart disease, arthritis, diabetes and mental health disorders will stress the system to the breaking point as Canada’s 10 million boomers reach retirement age over the next decade.

“What we’re saying in our report is what we don’t lack is information,” he said. “What we do lack is the capacity to make that information useful to get things done. It’s basic.”

Ontario Lung Association vice-president Peter Glazier said in its own way, the coalition is fighting against the turf wars that sometimes take place in health care.

“The traditional way of looking at things is that we’re in competition for getting the government’s attention,” he said. “I think what this has done by just bringing us together is we’ve talked a lot more so it’s built a lot of bridges.”

Glazier said Ontario’s health-care system is at its limit and something really needs to happen to make it sustainable. The coalition can help government by offering expert opinion from the front-lines of health care, he said.

“It’s a great focus group for government,” he said. “We’re bringing in all of these great stakeholders and getting them all in one place.”

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When Ontario’s health-care system is doing something well, that practice needs to be shared.

But far too often that’s not happening and the provincial agency charged with evaluating and spreading the news — Health Quality Ontario — needs to do that job.

That’s one of the findings in a new report from a coalition of 17 Ontario health-care agencies.

Peter Glazier, vice-president of the Ontario Lung Association, said that Health Quality Ontario needs a clearer and stronger mandate.

“I think that recommendation could provide some easy wins,” he said.

The coalition’s report has recommended the agency become more heavily involved in tracking, evaluating and formalizing health planning data. At this point, it’s focus is not clear enough, he said.

“It’s had an evolving mandate,” he said. “That is where I think some things have fallen through the gaps a bit.”

 


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