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Benchmarks welcomed for now

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It isn’t known what impact the new benchmarks released by the Ministry of Health last week will have on local health care but they seem to be welcome.

A joint report between the Ministry of Health and the Ontario Hospital Association, “Rural and Northern Health Parameters and Benchmarks” is a planning tool to help hospitals organize and restructure services, noted Liz Clark, acting CEO of Riverside Health Care Facilities Inc.

It goes along with a previous report, “Rural and Northern Health Care Framework,” which was released last year and focussed mostly on networking.

“What they are is primary tools for restructuring in the northern and rural access,” Clark explained yesterday, adding one highlight was it maintained the need to keep all current hospital sites open but with “greater efficiencies” than before.

The parameters divide hospitals into levels, A through D. Riverside’s three sites in Emo, Fort Frances and Rainy River would constitute a level B core medical/surgical hospital, Clark said, offering 24-hour emergency status, acute care beds, and have a physician complement of more than seven full-time equivalents between them.

She added much of what the report talks about has been done in the local system, especially in the area of networking. In June, 14 regional hospitals, including Riverside’s, chartered the Northwest Health Network.

But the parameters and benchmark report needs to be studied further before its impact can be deemed, Clark said.

Andrew Skeen, CEO at Dryden’s hospital, agrees with her. He wants to make sure the system that’s proposed can fit into the north, or that the efforts northern hospitals have already taken to increase efficiency get recognized.

“In the north, we’ve gone further ahead in taking other programs [into the health system] without adding bureaucracy, and that might not be recognized with this benchmark,” he said.

“I hope people look at the matter very seriously, make sure it’s comparing apples with apples,” he added..

Meanwhile, hospitals have some work ahead of them. In the framework report, a set of questions was handed out to answer in regards to health care services. Clark said the corporation will be reporting as a whole to the Hospital Services Restructuring Commission by Aug. 14.

“We’re going to submit a response with one voice,” she said.

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