For years, patients and their families have been frustrated by the transfer of patients to Thunder Bay, instead of Winnipeg. This has been especially true for cancer and cardiac patients.

At the same time, doctor recruitment and retention was also behind a drive to restructure the health care system, so it would provide fewer gaps, better results and become less of a burden for medical staff. 

Members of the All Nations Health Partnership joined for a photo after today's announcement.So, earlier today in Kenora, MPP Greg Rickford joined with health care leaders from across the spectrum in announcing the step towards the creation of a new system.

"It's maybe the largest paradigm shift in the history of health care, in northern Ontario but particularly here. We love Thunder Bay, and we appreciate the services we get in Winnipeg, but we want that driven by us here in Kenora and that's what happened today in a nutshell," he said.

This Ontario Health Team includes 15 partner providers and leaders from urban and rural communities within Kenora and Sioux-Narrows-Nestor Falls, including Kenora Chiefs Advisory and the Kenora Métis Council. Partners provide a range of care including hospital, community support services, primary care organizations, long-term care home and municipal services. The province says, as it continues its work to integrate care, the All Nations Health Partners Ontario Health Team will put in place 24/7 navigation and care coordination services for patients and families.

It was also an important day for those providing medical services. Doctor Buzz Pederson has been an advocate for better doctor recruitment and retention, and he welcomed the news.

"The big part of today, though, was looking back and just acknowledging the amount of work from the leadership group, from the functional group, the all nations health partners, the amount of trust that's been put in us by leaders to do this work. Today's just an acknowledgement of that, and a fantastic day," he said.

Doctors have been warning agencies -- Indigenous and non-Indigenous -- that they would be leaving some positions empty, due to the shortage of physicians in the area and the burdens being placed on medical staff.

Today's announcement is part of an overall provincial strategy to form health care teams, which are meant to provide more efficient and effective health care to patients. While hospitals are the backbones of the system, investments in preventive and community care are also important.

Chief Lorraine Cobiness of the Dalles says the Treaty 3 territory would like to benefit from these reforms, which will also be accompanied by $28 billion over 10 years. 

"It's transforming. Its exciting. It's scary,’ she said, adding it was being driven by the desire to  have a better system for all people.

Metis leader Liz Boucha agreed.

"It would provide access to all who needed it, where they needed it," she said.

The new all nations health team could also be accompanied by the new all nations hospital building, which would replace the Lake of the Woods District Hospital.

The All Nations Health Partners Ontario Health Team will begin implementing some of their proposed programs and services in 2020 and will communicate with patients and families about the changes and improvements they can expect in their community.

Ontario has a comprehensive plan to end hallway health care, which includes making investments and advancing new initiatives across four pillars:

Prevention and health promotion: keeping patients as healthy as possible in their communities and out of hospitals.

Providing the right care in the right place: when patients need care, ensure that they receive it in the most appropriate setting, not always the hospital. 

Integration and improved patient flow: better integrate care providers to ensure patients spend less time waiting in hospitals when they are ready to be discharged. Ontario Health Teams will play a critical role in connecting care providers and, in doing so, helping to end hallway health care.

Building capacity: build new hospital and long-term care beds while increasing community-based services across Ontario.

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