Changing health care culture an ongoing process, says LHIN CEO

In preliminary public information sessions and meetings with community groups, board members of Central West LHIN are developing key directions for the articulation of a three year plan, which they will introduce in Sept. 2006.

Identifying “champions” of health care provision to help acclimatize providers, and more importantly, patients, is part of the start-up process, says the chief executive officer.

“It’s important that the board fully understand the different communities in this region, and respect and speak to the huge diversity we have – which is both urban and rural, many of which are very remote communities,” says Mimi Lowi-Young. The Central West LHIN is constituted of both the Peel and Dufferin municipalities, and includes suburban Brampton and the town of Orangeville.

The leadership team has met with all the CCAC’s in the region, MPPs, representatives of the regional counsel of Peel, and community groups like Caledon Community Services. Lowi-Young also recently met with the “over 90” club at the Richview Residence, a supported housing complex for seniors.

“We are gathering ideas, thoughts, and input for the implementation of the plan.”

Cultural sensitivity is a key element in the community engagement process, Lowi-Young explains. Via the web, small focus groups, and social activities, LHIN staff and the newly appointed senior director of planning and community engagement – David Colgan – will attempt to initiate a process diffusing the current silos of power (hospital and doctor-centric system) into a more de-centralized, equitable, and integrated health care system.

The LHIN is a process, and not a “one shot deal,” Lowi-Young notes. “We want to set in place mechanisms that put the community and the citizen at the centre.”

“You don’t change the health care culture overnight,” she says.

As LHINs will attempt to re-fashion the Ontario health care system into a more patient-centred one, Lowi-Young emphasizes the importance of an informed citizenry. This also entails health care users understanding individual impact on the system.

“One part of the equation is getting people to take charge of their own health,” says Lowi-Young. “We have to understand the impact of our own health on the system.”

Lowi-Young, with thirty years of experience in the sectors of acute care, rehabilitation, long term care, and community health – and recently as a private consultant – the opportunity to assist in shaping Ontario’s future health care system seemed a natural progression in her career.

“It’s absolutely critical for an effort to be made to integrate services. We can’t sustain the current system. This is an opportunity to make a more seamless system.”

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