By Jennifer Bieman, The London Free Press
Southwestern Ontario’s health-care administrator is taking the old advice to “ask your doctor” to a whole new level.
During the last three months, three new doctors have joined the top ranks of South West Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), with five more representing territory stretching from Tobermory to Port Stanley.
The team of eight are not consulting on cuts, bruises or that flu bug that’s going around, but on the health-care highs and lows in communities across Southwestern Ontario and how the South West LHIN can help.
“The provincial government is looking to ensure that physicians are actively engaged in the work that the LHIN is doing,” said South West LHIN chief executive Michael Barrett.
The so-called physician leads hail from the LHIN’s sub-regions, London-Middlesex, Elgin, Huron-Perth, Oxford and Grey-Bruce. The five doctors work for the regional health-care administration one day a week and make $75,000 each year for their role, extra money Barrett said the province is providing.
The doctors will help the LHIN connect with the health care needs of their area and give other health-care professionals a direct line in to the agency.
“These are new positions, that have been created under the Patients First Act, that are intended to ensure we’ve got better co-ordination and connection in that smaller geography,” said Barrett.
It’s a good enough idea in theory, said Progressive Conservative health critic Jeff Yurek, but it’s added bureaucracy the administration-clogged system should think twice about.
“We do need to make sure the LHINs have clear goals on what they’re supposed to deliver our regions and ensure there is accountability when reaching the goals while minimizing the growth of bureaucracy,” said the Elgin-Middlesex-London MPP.
Yurek said including doctors in LHIN decision-making is key and wants to see more of their direct input in government policy.
“The province is still at odds with our doctors,” said Yurek of the ongoing Ontario Medical Association negotiations with the government.
“These people working on the frontlines know which way our health-care system should be heading.”
In addition to the new regional leads, the South West LHIN has three new high-ranking members on its doctor roster.
Amit Shah was named the South West LHIN’s emergency department lead this month. Working one day a week, he fills a position vacant for the last year. Shah is an emergency room doctor at London Health Sciences Centre and St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital.
The LHIN’s new critical care lead, Ian Ball, was named in June after his predecessor, Mike Sharpe, retired in the spring. Ball works in the intensive care unit at Victoria Hospital but will spend one day a week working for the regional health-care agency.
London family physician Cathy Faulds is South West LHIN’s chief clinical lead, a new post created by consolidating a handful of existing ones. Faulds assumed the role in July and will work three days a week while carrying on with her clinical duties. Part of her job will be to communicate with all five new sub-region physician leads.