The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (OCTC) – the two leading providers of specialized pediatric health services in the region – intend to join forces to create a new organization.
“Today we are setting a new course for the future – building a new organization that will be stronger for the families of this community,” says Alex Munter, CHEO’s President and CEO.
While parents and families are quick to praise the doctors and healthcare professionals who care for their children, they often say that the healthcare system itself is difficult to navigate for their kids, that it takes too long to get the help they need, and that there are too many gaps.
“As a community, we need to do things differently for these families – invest and organize differently,” says Kathleen Stokely, CEO of OCTC. “We don’t want duct tape solutions. We want to be proactive and create a health system focused 100% on the unique needs of children and youth, especially those requiring multiple services across providers to have the most effective impact.”
The decision to amalgamate was made by the Boards of both organizations after a thorough review by a joint task force, which included physicians, members of the community and parents. It will take a number of months to finalize the legal requirements for creating a new organization. Until then, it will be business as usual for both CHEO and OCTC.
The new organization will bring together, under one umbrella, the unique and specialized expertise from both CHEO and OCTC to provide a single “system of care”. For children, youth and families, this will mean a future with:
- Clearer and easier access to services
- More integrated and coordinated care
- A more holistic approach to care and development
Mindy McHardy, a parent advisor who was part of the task force, has been a strong advocate for the integration. She and her husband, Geoff, relied heavily on both organizations throughout their son Connor’s life. OCTC focused on Connor’s physical and mental development and CHEO on keeping him alive.
“Although Connor’s outcome would not have been any different if there was a single organization, my own experience certainly would have been,” she said. “The pressure on you, as a parent, to bridge two organizations – and to essentially be the glue that holds everything together – is overwhelming, especially when your child is struggling in every aspect of life.”
That message was echoed by Jennifer Walker, another parent advisor on the task force. “Just because our kids are complex, doesn’t mean the healthcare system has to be. Having one organization will definitely take us closer to every parent’s dream – having one door, one story, one health record.”
Joining together is a logical next step for CHEO and OCTC, who have worked closely together for decades and whose staff and physicians share the same calling: to make a difference in the lives of children, youth and families.
“We will be better positioned to champion healthcare for all kids in the region – helping to ensure it remains a priority in today’s environment of competing government priorities and a focus on the aging population,” says Munter. “This helps build capacity and economies of scale, helps makes better use of specialized human resources – and helps build a stronger voice on issues affecting children, youth and families. “
The goal is to have the amalgamation take place by end of year. It will require regulatory approvals, starting with the Champlain Local Health Integration Network, which will be asked to endorse the plan this summer. At amalgamation, Munter will become the CEO. The organizations are expected to be fully integrated by April 1, 2018. Between now and then, parents and families, staff and physicians, and community partners will be consulted to help define the evolution of the new organization and its service delivery model.
For more than 60 years, OCTC has been providing care for children and youth with disabilities, including cerebral palsy, complex needs associated with congenital conditions, developmental delay, autism spectrum disorders, and brain injury. Its multidisciplinary team includes developmental pediatricians, psychologists, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, and speech therapists, to name a few and provides more than 100,000 hours of direct service each year. OCTC has been recommended as the organization to take the lead in coordinated service planning for those with more complex needs over most of this region, under the Ontario Special Needs Strategy.
CHEO is one of only a few stand-alone pediatric hospitals in Canada and operates through funding from both the Ministry of Health and Long Term Care (MOHLTC) and the Ministry of Child and Youth Services (MCYS). Consistently rated highly by users of its services and recognized as the best health care employer in Canada, CHEO provides quality care, pioneers breakthrough research, and teaches the health care professionals of tomorrow.