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Residents offer input on health care

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The Northwest Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) was at La Place Rendez-Vous here on Thursday to hear feedback from local residents about how the health-care system could be improved as it works to develop an Integrated Health Services Plan for 2019-22.

Just under 40 people attended the consultation session, during which LHIN members presented slides and activities for those on hand.

“The ultimate goal was to actually talk to people across our region about their case experiences,” said Susan Pilatzke, Northwest LHIN vice-president of health system strategy, integration and planning.

“If they could picture their future, what would they hope the health care would look like in their communities and from their experiences?”

The initiative began about two months ago, with the Northwest LHIN having held 34 such events across the region in that time.

In addition to the events, a survey through the LHIN's “Picture Your Health” campaign also has been established.

“It's been a number of individuals that we have reached across our region to date in every community possible,” noted Pilatzke, adding many have reached out to LHIN requesting a visit to their communities.

Ontario's north can put stress on the health-care system and its people. According to the LHIN's website and Statistics Canada, the region makes up 80 percent of the province's land mass yet its population is only 5.8 percent of the province's 14 million people.

The area also is home to 106 First Nations' communities.

This sparsity of population, and vast distances between centres, are part of the reason why concerns of transportation, assisted living, and mental health were among the wide array of resident input during the three-hour session on Thursday.

The comments brought forward largely were negative in tone but as Fort Frances resident Darryl Allan, an LHIN board member, put it, “If everything was good and positive, we wouldn't need to have a meeting like this.”

“We need to hear the issues that are out there” to be able to implement systems that help the region, he stressed.

Many residents shared their personal stories and concerns about the current health-care system in Rainy River District, including a lack of doctors and a walk-in clinic, the need for a nurse practitioner in the emergency room, and more resources for the care of those with dementia.

“We hear a lot about home and community care,” said Pilatzke.

“We hear a lot about primary care, which we heard about tonight, we hear about senior services, assisted living services, transportation has come up, mental health and addiction,” she noted.

“There are common themes across our region and yet there are some unique themes,” Pilatzke added.

“I think those are the things that are really valuable to us—that communities are different, needs are different, and that's important to know.”

After sharing their stories and concerns about the region's current health-care system, attendees put their thoughts and ideas onto paper.

Each table wrote their personal ideas onto small sticky notes, which they then, as a group, separated into broader categories.

These categories then would become a list of priorities for the Northwest LHIN to add to the growing list of concerns from other communities such as Marathon, Sioux Lookout, Atikokan, and Thunder Bay.

“The communications team at the Northwest LHIN write this up pretty quickly so that those key items are posted on our website for everybody to see,” said Pilatzke.

“Then we use all that information to help as we start to write our plan and the priorities for the next three years.”

The IHSP for 2019-22 will be compiled and handed in to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care by the end of October.

Implementation will begin on April 1, 2019.

For more information about the Northwest LHIN's health plan and other community sessions, visit www.pictureyourhealth.ca

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