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Health PULSE says region’s solutions need one strong voice

Municipal leaders are speaking to their four councils in the region this week about the importance of “one voice” to help solve local healthcare challenges and lobby the province for resources.

Prince Edward County’s Chief Administrative Officer Marcia Wallace told council about the new Health PULSE (Partners United in Local Solutions for Everyone) group, comprised of Quinte Health, Loyalist College, Prince Edward County, Hastings County, Belleville and Quinte West.

“We all know there’s a problem, but how do we fix it? We can’t fix it by hoping, and we can’t fix it in our separate silos,” she explained at Tuesday’s meeting. “That’s really what initiated a partnership.

Marcia Wallace, CAO

“We came together as some of the largest institutions in this municipality that deal in the space of human services to take a collaborative approach looking at our health care challenges… It reflects that we must develop homegrown solutions to serve needs across the community today, and in the future and we’re coming together because we know we can’t do it alone. So while it started as conversations between senior leaders in various organizations, it’s really grown into a bringing together of institutions on a common journey.”

She noted the organizations quickly learned they collect information regularly that is most helpful to the other partners, and together creates a regional perspective.

Wallace explained Health PULSE is about taking an evidence-based approach to look at high rates of emergency room visits, doctor shortages, population growth and the senior demographic.

The region’s four hospitals serve about 170,000 people and Wallace stated 70 per cent of the population is likely to use more health care resources than if they lived elsewhere in the province – factoring in social detriments of health including age, income, education and living situation.

“While our hospitals are doing a great job in serving the community they can’t do it alone. Our residents are some of the highest users of hospital services in Ontario.”

The hospitals, she stated, are filling the gap. They were designed to provide acute and trauma-based care but they are doing so much more providing services that are better suited to a family doctor, long-term care or other community services that may not exist to support the local demand.

With expected population growth and the fact this area is aging faster than other parts of the province, “we need collective strategies… our age-related health care demands are growing three times faster than the local population.”

Paramedic services are one example.

“Seniors are about a quarter of the population in Eastern Ontario yet they generate more than half the paramedic calls. The number of hours paramedics spend to offload patients at hospital emergency has grown by 500 per cent across Eastern Ontario since 2019.”

Wallace added that a recent study by the Eastern Ontario Warden’s Caucus showed the funding that would be needed to support paramedic services would require an increase of $18 million annually across Eastern Ontario to maintain the service by 2028.

Health PULSE is looking at stress of individuals, but across many sectors – at senior’s housing, affordable housing, community and social services, geared-to-seniors gaps in the services that lead to greater health care needs, and we’re developing a picture of our region and our future population growth.

“We need to work together to make sure we have the services and options and we can’t just rely on our four hospital sites… In just a few years we’re going to see a shortage of 250 general and family physicians.”

“We need strong and stable hospitals to serve growing population needs, but we need the province to open the door to more innovative approaches so we can use funding resources more rationally. This includes home care, hospice, paramedics, long-term care… such efforts will help lessen the pressure on emergency departments.

“Most, we need the provincial upper levels of government to appreciate what we’ve learned and come to the table as a partner. And we believe speaking as one voice working together, and not in competition, we will begin to get some attention from the province.

“In rural Ontario we need to rethink and redefine rural health care and see through a rural lens.”

Next up for PULSE are plans for a symposium and meetings focusing on speaking with Ontario’s Minister of Health with one, stronger voice.

Quinte Health President and CEO Stacey Daub and Debbie Korzeniowski, Executive Director Prince Edward Family Health Team and Hastings Prince Edward Ontario Health Team Stewardship Group, also addressed council on the need for a rural lens and co-operative efforts to improve health care.

Filed Under: Local News

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